What does the leaked draft G20 communique tell us about development and climate change?

March 31, 2009

     By Duncan Green     

The FT has got its hands on a leaked copy, as has der Spiegel (a different draft, it seems, but I can’t find that one on the net). The FT version is nice and short (24 paras). Here’s what it says on Oxfam’s main asks for the summit, namely:

1. Agree a rescue package for poor countries: There are no specific numbers, but there is a commitment to G20 countries meeting their aid pledges and staying committed to the MDGs. Lots of detail on expanding the IMF’s finances and role. This includes doubling its resources for low income countries, and proposals to use the proceeds from sales of some of the IMF’s 3,000 tonnes of gold to support low income countries (not sure if that’s additional). There is also a line on a general SDR allocation, (equivalent to the IMF printing money), though no specific numbers. Among other things, that could further boost resources for low income countries. This is not in the bag yet of course – people will be watching closely to see how much makes it through to the final communique, and whether any increases in IMF financing are accompanied by the essential need for it to change its ways, overhaul its use of conditionalities etc. Otherwise we could just return to the bad old days of structural adjustment.

2. Crack down on tax havens: A call for action against non-cooperative jurisdications and recognition that the G20 needs to be ready to deploy sanctions. However, no language on what really matters – a multilateral system of automatic disclosure or country by country reporting by individual companies (although that may be in an accompanying document which the FT does not seem to have got hold of). The communique suggests that on April 2nd the G20 will announce a list of jurisdications that have not committed to international standards for exchange of information on tax.

3. Reform global governance: the draft communique recognises the need for reform and greater voice and representation for emerging and developing counties, including the poorest. They commit to:

a. launch the next IMF quota review at the 2009 Annual Meetings, to be resolved by January 2011 (this will shift voting weights within the IMF in favour of developing countries)
b. Set up a new Ministerial Council for the IMF to provide strategic direction and increase accountability
c. World Bank reforms on developing country voice, voting and governance to be completed by Spring Meetings 2010.
d. Heads and senior staff of international financial institutions to be appointed by open, merit based selection process (about time!)

However, there is nothing in the draft communique recognizing the need for the African Union to be represented in the G20. In general, it will be important to work out which developing countries emerge with a louder voice, and make sure the poorest are not relegated to the margins.

The communique only gives the UN a very marginal role (monitoring the impact of the crisis on the poorest and most vulnerable), Not much overlap here with the recommendations of the Stiglitz Commission

4. Build action on climate change into the design of our new global economy: Dismal language on this. Here it is in full:

‘We agreed to make the best possible use of investment funded by fiscal stimulus programmes towards the goal of building a resilient, sustainable and green recovery. We will make the transition towards innovative, resource efficient, technologies and infrastructure, and drive new low carbon business opportunities.

We encourage the Multilateral Development Banks to contribute fully to the achievement of this objective. We will work together to explore further measures to promote low carbon growth and build sustainable economies.

We reaffirm our commitment to address the threat of irreversible climate change, and to reach agreement at the UN Climate Change conference in Copenhagen in December.’

This is all what diplomats call ‘best endeavours’ language, i.e. ‘we will try really hard, honest, but we’re not committing to anything more than that.’ For me, this is the most depressing aspect of the draft. No sign of a green new deal here, or the recognition that a shock of this magnitude is just about the only opportunity for making the kind of massive economic shift we need if we are to move to a low carbon economy swiftly enough to avoid disaster.

Still, it’s only a draft. We’ll know if they’ve managed to salvage something (and crucially, keep the good stuff in) by the end of Thursday.