ROME – Leaders of the world’s largest economies agreed on Sunday to stop funding coal-fired power plants in poor countries and loosely pledged to seek carbon neutrality “by or around the middle of the century” as ‘they were finishing a Rome summit ahead of the world’s largest UN climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland.
While Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and French President Emmanuel Macron called the Group of 20 summit a success, the result disappointed climate activists, the UN chief and the British leader. The UK is hosting the two-week Glasgow conference and had been looking for more ambitious goals ahead of Rome.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the G-20 commitments mere “drops in a rapidly warming ocean”. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres admitted that the result was not enough.
“While I welcome the # G20’s re-engagement for global solutions, I am leaving Rome with my hopes unfulfilled, but at least they are not buried,” Guterres tweeted. “On to # COP26 in Glasgow.”
G20 countries account for more than three quarters of global greenhouse gas emissions, and Britain had hoped for a “G20 rebound” before the Glasgow COP26 meeting. Environmentalists and scientists have described the United Nations conference as the world’s “last best hope” to deliver on commitments to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) in the world. above the pre-industrial average.
The summit exposed the divisions that still exist between Western countries that have historically polluted the planet the most but are now seeing their emissions drop and emerging economies led by China whose emissions are increasing as their economies grow.
Britain has been pushing for a commitment to achieve climate neutrality or net zero emissions, which means a balance between greenhouse gases added and removed from the atmosphere, by 2050.
The United States and the European Union have set 2050 as their own deadline for reaching net zero emissions, while China, Russia and Saudi Arabia are aiming for 2060. The leaders of these three countries did not come to Rome for the top.
Ultimately, the G20 leaders came to a compromise to achieve climate neutrality “by or around the middle of the century”, not a fixed year.
Before leaving Rome, US President Joe Biden called it “disappointing” that G20 members Russia and China “hardly showed up” with pledges to tackle the scourge of climate change before the conference of the United Nations on the climate.
Russian leader Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping are not expected to attend the Glasgow conference, although they are sending senior officials to international talks at COP26.
“The disappointment is that Russia (…) and China have basically not come forward in terms of commitments to tackle climate change. And there’s a reason people should be disappointed.” Biden said, adding, “I found this disappointing myself.”
Biden’s comments came in response to a question from a journalist about the modest commitments made at the G20 summit.
“We have made commitments here at all levels in terms of what we are going to bring to (COP26),” the president said. “As the old business saying goes, the proof of the pudding will be in the eating.”
Earlier today, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov pushed back the West’s target date.
“Why do you think 2050 is a magic number? Lavrov asked at a press conference. “If this is an ambition of the European Union, it is the right of other countries to have ambitions as well … No one has proven to us or to anyone else that 2050 is something to which everyone world must subscribe. “
Italy’s Draghi said the declaration goes further on climate than any other G20 statement before it. He noted he was referring to keeping the 1.5 degree global warming target within reach, which science shows will be difficult to accomplish unless the world drastically cuts emissions. fossil fuels.
“We have changed the goalposts,” Draghi told reporters.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that the G20 leaders were able to meet was in itself a success given the coronavirus pandemic.
“The fact that we’ve set the table well and that we know where the sharp edges are, and that we know what work we’re going to have to do at the COP is a very positive step,” Trudeau said.
The future of coal, a key source of greenhouse gas emissions, has also proven to be one of the most difficult issues on which to find consensus for the G20.
At the Rome summit, leaders agreed to “end the provision of international public funding for relentless new coal-fired power generation abroad by the end of 2021.” This is financial support for the construction of coal-fired power plants abroad.
Western countries are moving away from this type of funding and major Asian economies are following suit: Chinese President Xi Jinping last month announced at the United Nations General Assembly that Beijing would stop funding such projects, and Japan and South Korea made similar commitments earlier in the year.
However, China has not set an end date for the construction of coal-fired power plants in its country. Coal is still China’s main source of electricity generation, and China and India have resisted proposals for a G20 statement on phasing out domestic coal consumption.
The failure of the G20 to set a target to phase out the use of domestic coal has been a disappointment for Britain. But Johnson spokesman Max Blain said the G20 statement “was never meant to be the main lever to secure commitments on climate change,” noting that these would be crafted at the summit. Glasgow.
John Kirton, director of the G20 Research Group at the University of Toronto, said the leaders “had only taken small steps” in the deal and had done next to nothing new.
He underscored the agreement to “recall and reaffirm” their overdue commitment to deliver $ 100 billion in aid to the poorest countries and to “stress the importance of fully achieving this goal as soon as possible” at the meeting. instead of declaring that they were ready to block the total amount.
The deal to end international coal funding “is the only thing that is specific and real. That matters,” Kirton said.
Young climate activists Greta Thunberg and Vanessa Nakate issued an open letter to the media as the G20 wrapped up, highlighting three fundamental aspects of the climate crisis that are often downplayed: time is running out, that any solution must do justice to the people most affected, and that the biggest polluters often hide behind incomplete statistics on their actual emissions.
“The climate crisis will only become more urgent. We can still avoid the worst consequences, we can still turn the tide. But not if we continue as today,” they wrote, just weeks after Thunberg did. shame on world leaders for their “blah blah” blah blah at a youth climate summit in Milan.
Greenpeace executive director Jennifer Morgan said the G-20 had failed to provide the leadership the world needed. “I think it was a betrayal of young people around the world,” she told The Associated Press on Sunday.
In addition to climate issues, leaders signed a landmark agreement for countries to adopt a global minimum corporate tax of 15%. The global minimum aims to deter multinational companies from evading tax by shifting their profits to ultra-low rate countries where they can do little real business.
The leaders also said they would continue to work on a French richer countries initiative to redirect $ 100 billion in financial support to Africa’s most needy countries in the form of Special Drawing Rights – a tool exchange rate used to help finance imports allocated by the International Monetary Fund and also received by advanced countries.
The leaders said they were “working on concrete options” to get there and defined the figure of $ 100 billion as a “total global ambition” without absolute commitment. Some 45 billion dollars have already been reallocated by the various countries on a voluntary basis.
The pledge reflects concern that the post-pandemic recovery is divergent, with rich countries rebounding faster due to intensive vaccinations and stimulus spending.
Associated Press editors Jill Lawless and Sylvie Corbet contributed to this report. Aamer Madhani contributed from Washington.