Since the financial crisis in Asia in the 1990s, the group of the twenty major industrialised and newly industrialising countries (G20) has met at the level of ministers of finance and presidents or chairmen of the central banks. In response to the global economic and financial crisis, the heads of state and government also started meeting in the G20 context in November 2008 in Washington. In addition to the G7 countries, member states include China, India, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, Australia, South Korea, Indonesia, Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Russia and the EU. The G20 Summit in Pittsburgh in 2009 took the decision to meet twice in 2010 (in Canada and in Korea) and to have an annual G20 Summit from 2011 onwards. There was an initial discussion as to whether the G8 and G20 meetings should be merged, however both platforms have since been established as high level meetings. In addition to financial issues, the G20 agenda now also includes more and more discussions on other global challenges such as environmental and development policies.
The G20 heads of state and government met in Hangzhou, China on 4 and 5 September 2016. The summit’s communique focussed on the world economy and, in particular, on an action package to stimulate global economic growth. The document’s topics also included the refugee crisis and increased climate efforts. On a positive note, the G20 also expressed its support for the swift, ambitious implementation of the Paris Agreement. In addition, China and the USA announced the ratification of the agreement. The heads of state and government also committed to the worldwide implementation of the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals, adopting an action plan on the topic.
The G20 countries are responsible for the lion's share of global energy consumption and CO2 emissions. Increasing and deepening cooperation on a sustainable energy future, which was also agreed by the G20 in Hangzhou, sends the right message after the Paris Agreement. Linking the energy agenda more closely with the climate agreement will be a focus of the German G20 Presidency in 2017.
On 15 and 16 November 2015 the G20 heads of state and government met in Belek (Antalya). The discussions held just days after the attacks in Paris focused on international cooperation in the fight against terrorism. Topics such as the refugee crisis and sustainable and inclusive economic growth played a major role as well. From an environment perspective it is worth highlighting that the G20 reiterated their commitment to limiting global warming to below two degrees and stressed their intention to adopt a binding climate agreement that is applicable to all countries at the climate change conference in Paris (COP 21).
The G20 welcomed the fact that more than 160 countries have submitted intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) to climate change mitigation and encouraged the remaining countries to present their contributions before Paris. Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which was adopted at the UN Sustainability Summit in September, was another point of discussion. China will take over the G20 Presidency on 1 December 2015. Germany will have the Presidency in 2017.
On 15 and 16 November 2014 the G20 heads of state and government met in Brisbane, Australia. This Summit focused on economic matters and among other things the G20 set themselves the goal of increasing GDP by two percent by 2018. Noteworthy, from an environmental perspective, is the initiation of an energy efficiency action plan by the G20. The Federal Government successfully advocated that the G20 continue to address climate action issues in the coming year. The G20 agreed to work closely together towards adopting a legally binding, universal climate agreement at the Climate Summit in Paris in 2015 (COP21). Furthermore, the G20 heads of state and government called on all states to communicate their national climate targets by the first quarter of 2015 if possible and to confirm their support for the mobilisation of funds to finance climate action. On the fringes of the Summit, the USA and Japan announced their contributions to the Green Climate Fund.
The G20 heads of state and government sent out a supportive signal from the Summit in St. Petersburg on 5 and 6 September 2013 to the Climate Conference, which took place in Warsaw in November 2013. On the basis of the report finally submitted at the Summit by the G20 Study Group on Climate Finance, the heads of state and government furthermore renewed their request to the G20 finance ministers to continue the G20 work on climate funding and report on it at the next Climate Summit in Brisbane. As part of the policies on sustainable development and green growth the G20 intend to draw up policy recommendations on "clean" energy and energy efficiency. Moreover, nuclear safety was put on the agenda of a G20 meeting for the first time. The G20 emphasised that the use of nuclear power was inextricably linked to the responsibility for utmost nuclear safety, security and non-proliferation for states already using nuclear power and those starting to use it.
The Summit organised by Mexico in Los Cabos on 18 and 19 June 2012, only 7 months after the meeting in Cannes, did not yield many results. Very little progress was made in climate funding and as such the report requested for this summit could not be submitted. Still, the G20 heads of state and government welcomed the results of the UN Climate Change Conference in Durban and demonstrated their determination to fully implement the decisions taken there. They also agreed to make the Green Climate Fund operational and paid tribute to efforts made in support of green growth. This topic is to remain a priority on the G20 agenda.
The Cannes Summit, which took place on 3 and 4 November 2011 under French Presidency, also covered funding the fight against global climate change as a priority environmental issue. In the run-up to the UN climate conference in Durban in South Africa (28 November to 9 December 2011), the heads of state and government of the G20 reaffirmed their willingness to step up their efforts to establish the climate fund and make it operational. They also discussed a report on climate funding submitted by the World Bank, the IMF, the OECD and regional development banks. The heads of state and government of the G20 asked their ministers of finance to report to the subsequent 2012 Summit at Los Cabos on the progress achieved in the field of climate funding. Other topics which were once again discussed by the Cannes G20 Summit included improvements in the protection of the marine environment with regard to offshore oil and gas exploration (the mechanism to share best practices that had been established in the meantime was welcomed by the meeting) and support for low-carbon development strategies to foster green growth.
At the G20 Summit in Seoul on 11 and 12 November 2010, progress was made in the field of climate funding. Other topics at the meeting included the protection of marine environments, biodiversity and green growth.
At the Toronto G20 Summit, which took place on 26 and 27 June 2010 and was organised back to back with the G8 Summit, the heads of state and government declared their support for the UN climate negotiations and recognised the need to exchange best practices for the protection of the marine environment as well as for the prevention of accidents in the context of offshore oil extraction and the mitigation of their impacts.