Historically, to maintain economic stability around the world, different combinations of countries have gathered together under the umbrella of various international organizations. The G-7, the first of these groups, came together in 1975 after the great oil crisis of the 1970s to prevent such future incidents.
In 1999, the G-20 group was formed to make evaluations in the presence of the finance ministers of member nations.
In addition to 19 countries in the G-20, there is also the EU.
The G-20, which includes countries such as the United States, China, Germany, England, India, Japan and South Africa, represents two-thirds of the world's population and 80% of the world's Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
From an environmental perspective, this group is also responsible for 85% of global carbon emissions.
Within the G-20, a number of ministerial meetings are held to focus on certain areas such as finance, energy, health, foreign policy and the environment, as well as to negotiate on these subjects.
The main purpose here is to create a base for the G-20 Leaders' Summit, in which country leaders attend with respect to the relevant fields.
Since Turkey is also a member of the G-20, it turned its route to Naples, Italy, to attend the G-20 Environment and Climate Ministers meeting on July 22-23, which is an important stop on the way to the G-20 Leaders' Summit, to be held in Italy's Rome in October 2021.
In turn, the G-20 Leaders' Summit has been considered to be an important key step on the road to the 26th U.N. Climate Conference of the Parties (COP26), which will be held in Glasgow in November, 100 days from now. As such, it has a different significance.
The world community is locked in this meeting as it is expected that more binding commitments will be made in order to keep the global temperature increase envisaged by the Paris Agreement at +2 degrees Celsius (+3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), and if possible at +1.50 degrees Celsius compared to the pre-industrial period.
Recently, floods due to excessive precipitation in Germany, Belgium, Austria, England, China, India and Turkey, as well as forest fires in the U.S. and Siberia, which increased the effects of extreme heat, once again turned the attention to the global issue of climate change.
Thousands of people who came to the area where the Environment Ministers Meeting took place in Naples invited the decision-makers to be more effective. Activist groups were also there to call for the same.
On the first day of the two-day meetings, the environment ministers were at the round table. Among the topics discussed were the conservation of biodiversity and natural capital, the circular economy and resource efficiency, and sustainable finance.
Speaking on behalf of the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Director Michael Regan, referring to the words of U.S. President Joe Biden, stated that “America is back” and it is now at the table wishing to recuperate the lost years.
Regan also emphasized that the U.S. will lead the fight against climate change on a global basis.
French Environment Minister Barbara Pompili drew attention to the importance of tackling climate change at the local level.
She emphasized that cities are an important source of emissions, and therefore, it is necessary to reduce emissions within the local framework and to create cities that are more resilient to climate change.
Within the scope of reducing emissions from cities, the representative of Russia showed support by announcing that hydrogen vehicles will be included in public transportation.
Japan's Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi informed that 100 regions will be decarbonized within the framework of net zero-emission targets.
While it was emphasized by South Africa that green areas were increased in order to prevent coastal erosion, Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal Frans Timmermans stated that the EU will assume a leading role in climate change.
International Energy Agency (IEA) President Fatih Birol, who started his speech with the words “A new global energy economy is being born,” drew attention to the fact that our world already has a great technological power to reach net zero and that this can be carried out with innovative approaches; however, joint action is necessary.
Birol emphasized that only 2% of the expenditures made for the post-COVID-19 recovery on a global scale have been transferred to sustainable (clean) energy investments and that this value should be increased further in order to achieve climate and energy targets.
Another important guest was Patricia Espinosa, the executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Pointing out the meaninglessness of a +1.5 degrees Celsius target without the G-20, Espinosa called on the G-20 countries to lead the way in keeping the global temperature rise in check, which is the main target of the Paris Agreement.
Reminding once again that G-20 countries are responsible for 80% of global carbon emissions, Espinosa underlined that it is not possible to reach the +1.5 degrees Celsius target independently of the G-20.
Espinosa recalled that only 97 countries have updated their nationally determined contributions (NDC) stipulated by the Paris Agreement, and this number corresponds to less than half of the signatory countries.
Espinosa also stated that G-20 countries can set an example with more effective NDCs in this regard.
Inger Anderson, director of the U.N. Environment Program, stated that since climate change has a greater impact on coastal cities, smart and climate-resistant cities should be built, the carbon footprint of cities should be reduced and that heat islands in city centers could be eliminated with more park-like structures.
She emphasized that parks are not only friendly to people but also to the climate, and with this thought, greener cities and cooler cities should be developed.
As mentioned at the beginning, the G-20 Environment and Climate Ministers Meeting is one of the key stages for COP26.
At this point, one of the important guests was Alok Sharma, president of COP26. Sharma, who made a visit to Turkey on June 17, 2021, is very proactive for the success of COP26, which is of great importance since it is the first meeting of the parties after the entry into force of the Paris Agreement.
Sharma, who started his speech by emphasizing that the G-20 is a vital step on the way to COP26, stated that we have the keys to the future of our children, and in this case, it will be possible to unlock a healthier and cleaner future with our decisions.
One of the important areas affected by climate change and environmental pollution is food.
Qu Dongyu, Director-General of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), who was among the participants, said that humanity is facing a triple crisis, including pandemic, loss of biodiversity and a climate crisis. He said that biodiversity and climate change are interrelated, therefore they should be addressed jointly.
He also drew attention to the importance of the sustainable use of water resources. While the planet is experiencing an alarming loss of biodiversity and a healthy environment is needed for healthy food, water scarcity affects more than 1 billion people worldwide and nearly 1 billion hectares (2.47 billion acres) of cultivated land is experiencing severe drought.
Dongyu stated that problems such as deforestation can also be prevented by 2030 if sufficient investments are made for activities such as the restoration of degraded lands and that in the end, multi-faceted benefits will be provided.
Among these benefits, reversing deforestation will reduce the effects of climate change and reduce the risk of possible future animal-borne diseases (zoonotic) spread, while reversing biodiversity loss and land degradation can prevent a loss of $1.4 trillion annually.
For the first time at such a high-level platform, the issues of climate change, loss of biodiversity and environmental pollution were discussed together.
In other words, it was accepted that all of them interact with each other.
Director of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Bruno Oberle sent a letter to the G-20 environment ministers and shared his views on the meeting.
In the letter, he stated that the diversity of species that ensure the existence of life on earth is under great threat, species are disappearing at an unprecedented rate and climate change has further increased this extinction. He said, therefore, the necessity of addressing today's problem – climate change and biodiversity – on a common ground has emerged.
After the meeting, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated that ambitious and urgent commitments must be made in order to keep the global temperature at +1.5 degrees Celsius and that the G-20 leadership is needed for this.
Guterres reminded once again that according to scientific evaluations, it is necessary for +1.5 degrees Celsius to be carbon-neutral in 2050 and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45% compared to 2010 values by 2030.
He also stated that the previously committed $100 billion should be provided.
A declaration was issued the same day after the meeting.
Three main areas were emphasized in the paper;
Within the scope of biodiversity, issues such as protection of natural treasure, restoration of ecosystems with nature-based solutions, protection of soil, protection of water resources, protection of blue homeland seas and oceans and the prevention of plastic-derived marine litter came to the fore.
Within the scope of circular economy, sustainable textile and fashion, circular cities, education and training issues came up.
Sustainable finance was also discussed. It is here worth remembering that the necessity of pricing carbon was discussed for the first time at the G-20 Finance Ministers meeting held last June and it was positively evaluated.
Turkey has been very proactive through all processes.
Although Turkey's historical responsibility is below 1%, Environment and Urbanization Minister Murat Kurum shared with the participants that Turkey follows an active and effective process in the fight against climate change, as ween in Turkey's wastewater and waste management policies, the developments the country has achieved in protected areas and its many works on the Blue Homeland seas.
Kurum stated that Turkey would host the 16th Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity in the coming period and that the country would assume the presidency for two years.
He said Turkey would play a leading role in the steps to be taken toward the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity.
It was emphasized that Turkey's protected areas have increased by 2.5 times to 11.5% in the last 20 years, but work continues to increase the size of the protected area to 17% in line with the Aichi Goals.
Noting that treatment systems were developed to protect water resources, rainwater collection systems were made mandatory in certain areas, and the reuse of treated wastewater was given priority; the Zero Waste project, which grew under the auspices of first lady Emine Erdoğan, experienced a recovery rate increased by nine points in just three years and reached 22%.
In addition, the Turkish delegation, acting with an intense agenda at the point of contact, held bilateral meetings with the delegations headed by Biden's Special Representative for Climate, John Kerry, Vice President of the Europen Commission Frans Timmermans and Germany's Deputy Minister Johen Flasbarth.
Turkey reiterated its demand for a fairer positioning, especially at the point of the climate regime, and requested support.
After the Italy meeting, Sharma brought 51 countries together to discuss the climate on July 25-27 in London.
Among them were the U.S. and China, which account for more than 40% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Although they have almost no effect on emissions, climate change poses a great risk for countries such as Barbados and the Marshall Islands, which also took part in the talks. They represent island countries where the increasing sea level as a result of climate change poses a grave danger.
Before COP26, various meetings are being held to reach more concrete decisions and to negotiate effective cooperation.
The recent floods were also touched upon, and it was discussed that climate change now has serious risks for every country, regardless of their level of development, and therefore it is necessary to take joint and effective steps.
Turkey has actively fought for and negotiated for the protection of its rights here as well.
Environment and climate issues will inevitably continue to occupy the agenda of world public opinion.
The new generation is aware of this issue and they demand a healthy future.
Therefore, countries will not be able to resist any longer.
However, it should not be forgotten that not realizing the promises made long ago will negatively affect the confidence in the promises for the future.
There are still opportunities on the way as some vital meetings are set to be held worldwide.
The best thing to do here would be to realize the fact that people are a part of nature, not the rulers of nature, and follow a path in harmony with nature toward the year 2050.