International governance is often discussed in fora designated by cryptic letters. The ‘Gs’ have referred to the Group of 8 (G8), the Group of 7 (G7), the Group of 2 (G2) and now the Group of 20 (G20)*. With the ‘Rs’, a new letter era is on the rise. The proof? The most prominent ‘G’ members want to join.
From May 4-6, a pre-G20 meeting took place in Mexico City. Global growth strategies, the financial stabilization of Europe, the reduction of global imbalances, resistance to protectionism and the protection of green growth were among the key issues discussed. Former leaders of Brazil, Spain, the United Kingdom and Canada – founding members of the G20 – as well as the Director General of the World Trade Organization, Pascal Lamy – all of whom sit on the Nicolas Berggruen Institute's 21st Century Council – issued a statement emphasizing the need for the G20 to merge with the R20.
The R20, like the G20, is an international grouping aiming at coordinating global governance efforts and implementing common policies. The body will be an active participant at RIO+20, which is intended to redefine global guidelines focused on preserving the environment. Unlike the Gs, however, which are based around nation states, the R stands for region. The R20 are, in fact, the “regions of climate action”. The underlying rationale assumes that “the local” is best placed to implement global measures.
The R20 was created under the impulse of the then Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger – its current Founding Chair. In an exclusive interview with The Global Journal in March, Schwarzenegger expressed his belief that the “R20 is not just another NGO or network of regions, it is much more than that. It is a real coalition of forces which believe that climate change and green economic development can be tackled at the subnational level”. The R20 works through “a coalition of partners led by regional governments” and towards the implementation of “projects that are designed to produce local economic and environmental benefits in the form of reduced energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions; strong local economies; improved public health; and new green jobs.” *
Confronted with the recurrent failure of the G20 to find agreement between its members on these issues, the R20 appears as a new and innovative platform, which provides efficient and implementable results. This stands in stark contrast to the unsatisfactory answer the G20 has provided in response to the environmental issues raised by the Mexico Summit and forthcoming Rio Conference, grounded in "self-country action" and "best practices sharing” as a complement to global treaties. In reality, this means it is likely that few solutions will be implemented. In comparison, the R20 has the potential to be more proactive. The grouping acts through a simple model, by which localities set their own energy strategy priorities, which are then supported through financing and technology brought in by the R20. The results have been impressive: the R20 has created efficient public and private partnerships that contribute to local employment.
With the Kyoto protocol scheduled to expire in 2012, a merger of G20 leadership and reach, with R20 effectiveness, would indeed provide the opportunity to initiate large-scale yet concrete green economy changes in the global governance sphere.
*G8 members: France, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom (UK), Japan, United States (US), Canada, and Russia; G7: France, Germany, Italy, UK, Japan, US, Canada; G2: US and China ; G20: Argentina, France, Japan, South Africa, Australia, Germany, Mexico, Turkey, Brazil, India, Republic of Korea, UK, Canada, Indonesia, Russia, US, China, Italy, Saudi Arabia and the European Union.
(Photo © Rio+20)