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G20 Antalya Summit: The Elders' letter to leaders on climate change

The Elders have written to world leaders attending the G20 Summit in Antalya, Turkey. They call for strong leadership to ensure an equitable and ambitious international agreement on climate change in Paris in December.

Your excellency,

We are writing to you ahead of your meeting in Antalya with fellow G20 Heads of State on 15 and 16 November, to urge strong G20 leadership for an equitable and ambitious international agreement on climate change in Paris in December.

In September in New York, all governments agreed the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We applaud your vision and leadership in concluding these Goals. Yet without a strong agreement in Paris, the SDGs will not be deliverable. Instead development gains achieved to date will be wiped out by the impacts of climate change.

This is a human rights and justice issue, not just an economic one. As we rapidly approach the tipping point beyond which climate change may become irreversible, we risk denying future generations their right to a liveable, sustainable planet.

Time and leadership are of the essence. The draft text for Paris still contains too many complex options and competing views. Your engagement as a G20 leader is thus crucial in reaching a strong, inclusive and equitable agreement at Paris.

When you meet in Turkey, we urge you to resolve with your fellow G20 heads to include these crucial elements in the Paris agreement:

  • an overarching goal for all nations to reach a state of carbon neutrality by 2050. The world’s governments agreed in 2010 to limit the increase in average global temperature rise to less than 2 degrees Celsius. But to shift investments in the real economy away from fossil fuels and into clean energy, it will be necessary to fix a precise goal and timeline in the Paris agreement;
  • a clear and strong commitment on climate finance. Public climate finance is crucial to enable developing countries to shift to clean energy production and to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Developed countries cannot simply insist that poorer countries refrain from using fossil fuels on account of climate change, but should provide feasible alternatives to enable a transition to a carbon-neutral future. Public climate finance should be new money and not a redistribution of other pledged funds. Crucially the Least Developed Countries Fund must be replenished to allow the most vulnerable countries to continue to implement urgent adaptation actions. Small Island Developing States face an existential threat from climate change and require urgent financial support to allow them to adapt and shift to renewable energy sources;
  • a mechanism that will assess collective progress and ratchet up the commitments of all countries on mitigation and adaptation every five years. The Intended Nationally Determined Contributions are an important beginning, but they will not limit global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius. So the Paris agreement must be designed to increase ambition progressively over time;
  • enabling conditions for the introduction of a global carbon price. Accurately pricing carbon is crucial to accelerate development of alternative sources of energy. No clauses or protocols should be included in the Paris agreement that could negate any future decisions on carbon pricing.

Without these crucial elements in the Paris agreement, we will be unable to address climate change, and will thus fail the ultimate challenge of our globalised age. For the sake of our children and grandchildren, this cannot be allowed to happen. We urge you to rise to this challenge and to seize the opportunity to achieve sustainable growth and development, harnessing technological advances in renewable energy to create jobs, increase prosperity and end poverty.

As an African proverb says: the Earth is not ours; it is a treasure we hold in trust for our children and grand-children. We are confident you agree with us.


Download the original letter signed by The Elders.

This letter is part of a growing chorus from civil society and concerned organisations, including the B-Team, demanding world leaders rise to the challenge and agree an effective deal to tackle the threat of climate change.

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The Elders are independent global leaders, brought together by Nelson Mandela, who offer their collective influence and experience to support peace building, help address major causes of human suffering and promote the shared interests of humanity.

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