Activist and financier Mazurier praises G20 leaders for climate change focus

By the time the smoke cleared on the 2014 G20 summit in Brisbane, Australia, climate change had raised a few notches on the list of priorities for the world’s 20 major economies. It was a welcome -- if rushed, under pressure from climate fight leaders the United States, France and China -- evolution for many nations, and an encouraging sign for activist Christophe Mazurier.

Mazurier, a renowned European financier, is also a friend of the environment. He has taken up the fight in The Bahamas, his adoptive nation and one of the most environmentally at-risk countries in the world. The Bahamas is an archipelago of more than 700 islands dotting the Atlantic Ocean just off the coast of Florida, square in the middle of “Hurricane Alley.” For The Bahamas, climate change is a regenerative disease and its symptoms -- rising and warming ocean waters, desalination, and stronger and more unpredictable weather patterns -- represent direct threats to the country’s tourist- and maritime-based economy.

Too small to be represented at the Group of 20, The Bahamas relied on larger and more eminent nations to push their message. Movement on the climate fight wasn’t always guaranteed, however, and indeed the host Australian delegation would have preferred to avoid the topic altogether. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, long an opponent of domestic bills to reduce emissions, said that Australia, as one of the world’s largest coal producers, would be “standing up for coal.”

However, Abbott and his ilk were overruled by slightly more influential world leaders (read: U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping) following hours of furious debate. Eventually, Australia agreed to contribute to the green climate fund, to which the United States has pledged $3 billion, Japan $1.5 billion and France $1 billion. They also agreed to additional language that directed Australia to phase out outdated and harmful fossil fuel subsidies.

In his dissent after the summit concluded, Abbott noted that the G20 prioritizing climate change was unnecessary, and that every country would no doubt approach the fight in its own way. He noted that Obama, despite his application of pressure at the G20, still had to push similar domestic legislation through a divided legislature.

However, Obama and others agreed that approval from the G20 leaders -- as well as across-the-board contributions to the green climate fund -- would be essential to climate negotiations when the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference convenes in Paris in late 2015. Mazurier agrees, saying in an editorial for French newspaper Les Echos that the G20 focus on climate change was more valuable for what it symbolized than anything else. Obviously, wrote Mazurier, there would be certain obstacles to implementing climate change in every country, but it says something larger when the governments representing 85% of the world’s economy agree that climate activism is a pressing issue.

Mazurier also praised the embattled French president Francois Hollande. While his economic and social policies have not always agreed with the French public, his proactive and progressive stance on climate change is a shining beacon as France struggles through an image crisis. 

Hollande pledged $1 billion to the green climate fund at the United Nations summit in New York City in September, and he will host the next conference in Paris next year. There he will be among those leaders pushing for a universal agreement on climate change. Born in France, Mazurier is proud that the next chapter of climate change activism could begin in his home nation.