Germany has assumed leadership of the G20, the club of the world’s most powerful nations, announcing an ambitious agenda that sets a high bar for coordinated action on climate and sustainable development amid uncertainty about the U.S. role in the world following the election of Donald Trump.

The Hamburg Summit in July will be the first time President Trump meets with the full group of G20 leaders. The newly released summit agenda is a reminder that the new president’s campaign promises and early appointments could put him at odds with the prior G20 commitments.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced the G20 agenda in a video message on Dec. 1 in which she named “responsible global climate policy” among the summit’s goals. She also stressed the importance of open markets, a foundational G20 commitment since the group came into being as a leaders’ forum in 2007.


“There will be no returning to a pre-globalization world, but we can influence the path globalization takes, establish rules for it, and put people at its center,” Chancellor Merkel said. “Isolationism, new forms of nationalism and protectionism will not help us here.”

The video release coincided with the start of a two-day conference of the T20, a gathering in Berlin of think tank leaders and experts from the G20 countries.

Some of the formal T20 deliberations, and much of the hallway conversation, focused on the U.S. president-elect’s stated intention to “cancel” the Paris Agreement and rollback U.S. clean energy policy, and the extent to which the G20 leaders may give him reason to reconsider these plans.

Lars-Hendrik Röller, the German “Sherpa” who will lead Summit preparations, briefed think tank scholars from around the world on the “three pillars” of the German agenda, described in a new government policy paper, Priorities of the 2017 G20 Summit.

The first pillar of the agenda focuses on traditional G20 issues: economic resilience, financial architecture and markets, taxation, trade and investment, and employment.

The second pillar, “Improving Sustainability,” focuses on climate action and implementation of the “2030 Agenda,” a reference to the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. Both issues, which are central to WRI’s own work, featured in the communique at this year’s G20 Summit in Hangzhou China.

Röller’s briefing and the policy paper suggest that Germany intends to give these crucial issues greater prominence.

“A secure, economically efficient and greenhouse-gas-neutral energy supply accessible to everyone is a fundamental prerequisite for economic growth and prosperity, and one of the main priorities of the G20,” the German paper says. “The aim of discussions in the G20 is to foster appropriate political frameworks, financing instruments, and economic incentives for investments in climate-resilient infrastructure and to boost technological innovations.”

The second pillar also includes two other issues of particular importance for poor people in developing countries—seizing opportunities from digitization of the global economy, and a new focus on health, specifically improved cooperation in responding to epidemics such as Ebola and the prevention of anti-microbial resistance.

The final pillar, “Assuming Responsibility,” focuses on such issues as displacement and migration, strengthening partnerships with Africa, combatting terrorist financing and money laundering, and improving food security.

The food security discussion makes clear the link to climate change: “Factors such as global population growth, climate change, fluctuation in precipitation, extreme weather events like droughts and flooding, and increased water consumption in industry and other sectors pose fundamental challenges to agriculture,” the paper says. It says that the G20 will discuss how to feed a growing population through “sustainable and more productive agriculture.”

It will be interesting to see what President-elect Trump makes of such discussions—and what the other G20 leaders make of the new American president.