The G-20 Picks Pittsburgh for Massive 2009 Summit This Fall
Brandon Sun “Small
World” Column, Saturday, July 11 / 09
the past several months, Pittsburgh’s professional NFL football and NHL
hockey teams, the Steelers and the Penguins, have captured their
respective league championships. And now, after a quarter-century
process of remaking its economy and becoming known for its green
industries, Pittsburgh has been chosen to host the September 2009 G-20
Summit, a meeting of the world’s largest players and regional
It is said that President Barack Obama
chose Pittsburgh for this event to showcase how the 250-year-old city,
which lost 250,000 steel-related jobs in the 1980s, has been able to
rebound and now boasts an unemployment rate one point lower than the US
national average, with a new jobs strategy that includes health care
The Convention Centre where much of the
G-20 discussions will take place was completed in 2003, and has been
endorsed by the US Green Building Council, as it is lit largely with
the use of skylights, uses recycled hand towels, and cycles water from
fountains into the toilet system. Not surprisingly, Pittsburgh is
led by a youthful 30-year-old mayor.
The previous G-20 Summit
took place in April in London. A strong statement was made at
that meeting about climate change and its effects on the world’s
World economic superpower G-8 leaders will have
met this past week (Wednesday) in Italy, followed by a discussion,
chaired by Obama, with representatives of “emerging” economies such as
China, India and Brazil (Thursday) on the environment. Following
that, Obama flies to Ghana (Friday) to make a major announcement on aid
to African development.
On the negative side of the
ledger, the British charity Action Aid contends that only half of the
G-8’s 2008 $10 billion pledge has actually been disbursed, at a time
when the world economy and increased food prices puts hundreds of
millions of people at risk. As well, India and China are slow to
commit to emissions reductions. Both say that cutbacks in
industry will lead to greater unemployment and poverty in their
countries, and a greater chance of social upheaval. They leave it
to richer nations to take the lead.
Brazil, meanwhile, has
signed on to cutting emissions, and political heavyweights such as
Gordon Brown and Tony Blair from Great Britain are championing
wealthy nations putting sizable funding into helping Africa adapt
to climate change to avoid large scale hunger.
complimented the US administration for bringing a new attitude to the
table, and believes that even the foot-draggers will sign on by the
time the United Nations Climate Change Conference takes place in
December. A group of 22 leading climate scientists has written to
the G-8, calling for policies that would see global emission peak by
2020 and shrink by at least 50% by 2050.
“Unless the burden of
poverty in developing nations is alleviated by significant financial
support for mitigation, adaptation, and the reduction of deforestation,
the ability of developing countries to pursue sustainable development
is likely to diminish, to the economic and environmental detriment of
all,” the scientists also said.
The British charity Oxfam has
just published a series of reports on the affects of climate change on
agriculture after carrying out studies in fifteen developing
In Uganda, East Africa, a climate that once
offered annual abundant rainfall has changed to one of four years of
drought. Classic to climate change theory, our weather has become
erratic, with shorter but more violent rains, more frequent and
stronger winds, dry spells and fluctuating temperatures.
Africa will see corn yields, which 250 million people depend upon,
decrease by 15% over the next decade, says Oxfam’s climate change
Not only malnutrition, but also conflict will
result from harvest shortfalls and lack of water for humans and
cattle. Meanwhile, as rice yields decline by up to 50% in the
Philippines as temperatures rise, yields will increase in China as
lower temperatures begin to rise - disaster for one country, bounty for
Oxfam recommends funding to help poorer countries and
their farmers build dams to capture and distribute water, to switch to
drought-tolerant seeds and farming methods, and move to alternative
sources of energy, such as bio-gas and solar, to avoid cutting down
more trees for firewood.
The Oxfam report says that “the
world’s agricultural potential is less than 60% exploited. There
is still enough land to feed everyone” but new methods and technologies
are needed to address new challenges and realities.
these discussions and initiatives will continue to play out over the
summer, and culminate in Pittsburgh in the fall. Let’s hope that
a city that has inspired a nation with its green economy and
never-say-die attitude can do the same with world leaders who have been
long on negotiation and promises, but have come up short on action on
climate change and hunger.
Zack Gross coordinates a provincial fair trade outreach program for the Manitoba Council for International Co-operation (MCIC), a coalition of 38 international development organizations.