Compliance Outlook Following G20 Summit

Last week, the leaders of the world’s 20 largest economies met in Hamburg, Germany for the annual Group of 20 (G20) Summit. Climate change was expected to be at the top of the agenda. There has been much discussion since the June 1st announcement that the US will withdraw from the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement, which was signed by 194 countries with the main goal of keeping a global average temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius and driving efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

It remains unclear whether the US withdrawal will strengthen or weaken the remaining countries’ commitment to the agreement. Initial indicators suggest that China and Europe will take the lead. US cities, states, businesses, investors and universities have broken with the federal government’s decision. Four days after the US withdrawal announcement, 125 cities, governors and attorneys general in 19 states, 902 businesses, and 183 colleges and universities formed the “We Are Still In” coalition to demonstrate their continued support for the agreement’s main objectives.

A recent article in the journal Nature authored by international scientists; business leaders; and the former Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Christiana Figueres, outlines six G20 goals for 2020 focused on green energy, low emissions infrastructure, transportation, land use, industry, and finance. As described in the article, climate scientists predict that if emissions do not decrease by 2020 the Paris Agreement’s temperature goals will become unattainable. The authors have launched the “Mission 2020” campaign to raise awareness and achieve emission reductions in key industry sectors. The G20 leaders are expected to discuss next steps for meeting the Paris Agreement goals without formal US participation.

A number of our clients are signatories to the We Are Still In commitment, and we are dedicated to working with them to achieve the relevant goals they will be setting out for themselves in the short- and long-term. We recognize that this is a complicated issue that many of our clients are responding to uniquely respective to their own business goals and needs. Though there is much we can’t know until the dust settles, it does seem clear that the regulations for our clients who operate in multiple states or countries are likely going to grow more complex as they become subject to smaller jurisdictions. Without the federal requirements that would have come with our participation in this agreement, regulations will be more likely to vary from state to state or even city to city as participants in “We Are Still In” begin to initiate their own regulatory actions. Organizations looking to manage risk in this area would be wise to have a plan in place to address increasing divergence in regulations from region to region. In our experience, it is far better to be prepared than to be forced to react to late-breaking changes.

On a related note, Woodard & Curran has worked with municipalities, universities, and utilities to develop comprehensive resiliency plans and acquire the necessary funding to implement them. As a firm, we remain committed to helping our clients formulate and carry out risk-based climate action and resiliency plans of all types to prepare for worst-case scenarios and protect their operations.


Mary House Director of Practices Environment

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