G20: The Result


If the measures championed by Oxfam, some other international organizations and some individual countries had been embraced at the Cannes G20 summit, this world would now be on a course toward a more stable and prosperous future.
But proposing and disposing is not the same thing.
Rather than eat at the sumptuous table of potential measures to reign in food prices laid on by the French, the G20 leaders whipped up a rhetorical soufflé and (since they are very conscientious) composted the most promising measures.
US, Canadian and European biofuels mandates were left untouched. On the wild casino that commodity markets have become, the leaders merely thanked the international organization of securities regulators for its recommendations and said to come back next year with more.
To be fair, the G20 leaders took a first step on market transparency and approved (but did not fund) a pilot emergency food reserve in West Africa. But that deals with consequences, not causes of the problem.
On climate change, the leaders said little, but the door to carbon pricing for international shipping was kept open. With luck and a lot of effort, we may just get movement on that issue at the UN climate negotiations in South Africa at the end of November.
The big win was the Financial Transactions Tax. Robin Hood and his band of merry G20 countries should be celebrating. France and Germany remained firmly committed; South Africa, Brazil and Argentina joined them; and the United States backed off on its threat to block it all. Even Ethiopia, the African Union and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon signed on. It is going to happen, and happen soon.
Your Oxfam team is bleary-eyed but pleased. The Robin Hood Tax is a huge victory.  And I’m willing to bet our efforts played no small part.

Mark Fried is Oxfam Canada policy coordinator.