G-20 leaders strike climate deal that leaves COP26 a lot to do
The Group of 20 countries struck a climate deal that fell well short of what some nations were pushing for in a compromise accord that gave leaders little to take to the COP26 summit in Glasgow this week.
In a copy of the final communique seen by Bloomberg from the G-20’s two-day summit in Rome, the language mirrors prior pledges made in the 2015 Paris climate accord. Leaders said they “remain committed to the Paris Agreement goal to hold the global average temperature increase well below 2 degrees Celsius and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.”
As expected, Sunday’s statement agrees to phasing out investment in new offshore coal power plants, something China already said it would do. “We will put an end to the provision of international public finance for new unabated coal power generation abroad by the end of 2021,” it said.
On domestic coal, the statement only contains a general pledge to support those countries that commit to “phasing out investment in new unabated coal power generation capacity to do so as soon as possible.”
COP26’s UK hosts had aimed to “consign coal to history.”
Negotiations over the past week saw continuous clashes over both objectives and timelines on climate, with several officials pointing the finger at holdouts China, Russia and India. The last round of talks saw negotiators known as sherpas talk throughout Saturday night, and they celebrated the end of their marathon with applause at the main La Nuvola venue at about 10am.
“If the G-20 was a dress rehearsal for COP26, then world leaders fluffed their lines” said Jennifer Morgan, executive director of Greenpeace International. “Their communique was weak, lacking both ambition and vision, and simply failed to meet the moment.”
The G-20’s statement offered little in the way of concrete action. It committed to “significantly reduce” greenhouse gas emissions “taking into account national circumstances.” Much of the wording, including references to national circumstances and a circular carbon economy, were favoured by countries including Australia, China, India and Saudi Arabia.
The summit rowed back on commitments to phase out domestic coal use in just a few days of haggling over draft statements. A version on Thursday seen by Bloomberg contained a pledge to “do our utmost to avoid building new unabated coal power generation capacity.” Saturday’s draft pushed that to “in the 2030s.”
By agreeing a watered-down communique on climate change, the G-20 opted to keep the group united ahead of the crucial talks in Glasgow. A failure in Rome to agree would have represented a serious setback for prospects of success at COP26.
In other key climate questions:
The G-20 leaders agreed to be “vigilant of the evolution of energy markets”, a reference to surging prices for oil, natural gas and coal that have rocked much of Europe and Asia. The G-20 said it was key to ensure “affordability” of energy.
They reaffirmed a commitment to support the green transition in developing countries by mobilising jointly $100 billion (€87 billion) per year annually through 2025.
The final text no longer has tangible commitments to cut methane emissions, which was in earlier drafts. It now only acknowledges that methane emissions represent a significant contribution to climate change and reducing it would be one of quickest ways to limit the impact of global warming.
The communique recognises the efforts made by some countries to ensure that at least 30% of global oceans and seas are conserved or protected by 2030 but only encourages others to make similarly ambitious commitments.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.