Leaders from the world’s 20 largest economies have committed to historic levels of cooperation and transparency in a bid to dramatically raise growth, lift millions of people out of poverty, and propel up to 100 million women into the worldwide workforce for the first time.
Brisbane’s G20 summit concluded on Sunday with agreements to close tax loopholes used by multinationals, improve trade, encourage the setting of early emissions reduction targets, strengthen banks, reform energy markets including gas, and coordinate a stronger response to the Ebola epidemic.
In one of the most conclusive G20 summits held, leaders adopted the Brisbane Action Plan which contains over 800 firm economic reforms to be undertaken domestically by member states in the hope of turbo-charging economic growth.
US President Barack Obama praised the organisation of the summit, thanked the host city, “Brissie”, and reassured voters here and in his country that the meeting had not simply been a “chinwag” then adding, “I love that expression”.
The meeting adopted a communique encouraging parties which are ready to announce post-2020 targets for emissions reductions to do so “well in advance” of the Paris Climate Change summit next year. It also affirmed support for “mobilising finance for adaptation and mitigation, such as the Green Climate Fund”.
That was the fund to which the Obama Administration this week pledged US$3 billion as the President moved to force climate change onto the G20 stage against the wishes of the Abbott government.
It is understood disagreement over climate policy caused considerable friction behind the scenes with Barack Obama and Prime Minister Tony Abbott clashing over the section of the communique dealing with energy efficiency.
Mr Abbott argued in favour of energy efficiency as a key driver of emissions abatement but also defended coal as the core energy source for the more that 1 billion people worldwide who live without electricity.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said Australia should be doing more as part of a global response to carbon emissions.
“Countries that have so far done the least have to think about what more they can do. I’ve had good and friendly discussions with Prime Minister Abbott about that,” he said, adding that even those unsure of climate science should regard action as a form of “insurance”.
“I hope [Australia will] do everything they can in the coming months to look at what more they can deliver, because when it comes to Paris if we want to get a global agreement everyone is going to have to bring something to the table.”
Mr Abbott, who had insisted that climate change not be listed on the official agenda, also argued the inclusion of climate change in the communique was not an embarrassment because it had been part of the original draft communique circulated by Australia.
But asked if and when Australia would announce its new targets, he again declined to say.
“We will be making further decisions at the right time and what we want to do is take effective action against climate change which is consistent with continued strong economic growth, continued jobs growth and continued development not just for the already developed countries but for the whole world,” he said.
The G20 had for the first time moved from responding to events to promoting economic growth and reform.
“This Brisbane summit and indeed the whole year of Australia’s G20 presidency has not just been about bold ideas, it’s been about strong execution as well. We set a goal, we developed a plan, and we believe we have implemented it,” Prime Minister Abbott said.
The IMF-OECD will monitor each country’s performance to ensure that promised actions are pursued to achieve the fences and growth-enhancing reforms.
“This will add more than US$2 trillion to the global economy and create millions of jobs,” the communique states.
“Our measures to lift investment, increase trade and competition, and boost employment, along with our policies, will support development and inclusive growth, and help to reduce inequality and poverty.”
Mr Abbott, who has long defended his controversial paid parental leave scheme as a mechanism for increasing female participation in the workforce, praised the decision to aim at reducing the gap between male and female employment in 10 years.
“We have had a 25 by 25 pledge by all G20 countries to reduce the gap between female and male work force participation by a quarter … (by 2025) and this has the potential to bring 100 million women into the global work force,” Mr Abbott said.
“An extraordinary achievement if we can deliver on this, but it is a clear aspiration and it is an achievable accountable goal.”
As expected, Sydney will become the headquarters of a “global infrastructure hub” which will be funded by donations from member governments and the private sector.
“The hub will foster collaboration among these groups to improve the functioning and financing of infrastructure markets,” the communique states.
On the complex question of tax evasion, Mr Abbott lauded the adoption of new joint commitment.
“Look, the key to all of this is information sharing between the jurisdictions,” he said at the summit’s conclusion.
Mr Abbott said some of the most productive topics of discussion at the G20 summit was about boosting trade. The summit communique said trade and competition were “powerful drivers of growth, increased living standards and job creation.”
The leaders also signaled reforms to the World Trade Organisation – the G20 will focus on ways to make the global trading system “work better” when Turkey is the host in 2015. Australia would likely benefit from improvements to the global trade regime.