(Bloomberg) – World leaders say they want decisive action to tackle climate change at a critical UN summit this year. The behind-the-scenes discussions among Group of Seven delegates – when progress was stalled by last-minute nerves, political tensions and a lack of funding – show how far they need to go.
Diplomats and ministers working at the COP26 UN climate talks that begin in Scotland in October fear the summit’s chances of success may be jeopardized. A senior British official has privately said the vital gathering is likely to disappoint.
If leaders cannot step in in Glasgow and agree to action to keep global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius and meet a funding commitment of $ 100 billion a year to help the poorest countries adapt, the consequences for the planet could be disastrous.
Last weekend at the G-7 on the Cornish coast in southwest England, US President Joe Biden and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi were among those who failed while other leaders of the group were pushing for more ambitious goals, according to officials who asked not to be named to discuss the private talks.
During intense negotiations in the days leading up to the meeting, leaders’ advisers drafted an agreement to end the use of domestic coal in G-7 economies, having already agreed to stop funding international projects. of coal.
Authorities expected it to be particularly difficult for Japan to engage, given the country’s reliance on coal power after nuclear power plants were shut down following the Fukushima disaster in 2011. Yet the team of Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga endorsed the idea and supported it in the discussions.
It looked like the Seven Nations would be able to accept the historic commitment in Cornwall, which would set the tone for other countries to follow in phasing out energy produced from fossil fuels.
By the 11th hour, however, Biden officials became nervous about the impact on domestic politics and the White House refused to approve the plan, which then had to be excluded from the summit’s final communiquÃ©, officials said. , and a diplomatic note. summarize the meetings.
It was also the United States that blocked a G-7 initiative to make the majority of new passenger car sales zero-emission vehicles by 2030, a target that Britain’s leader Boris Johnson and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were ready to support, officials said.
G-7 cuts aim to divert new car sales away from oil by 2030
The leaders of the rich economies represented at the G-7 know they have a key commitment that they must meet if they are to encourage developing countries to commit to emissions reduction: to provide $ 100 billion per year in funding for the poorest nations.
Here, too, Biden has not been able to commit to new figures regarding the US contribution, after four years in which Donald Trump did not spend what was needed. The G-7 agreed that each member would increase the amount they donated to a total of $ 100 billion per year, but not everyone announced how much more they would spend.
Angela Merkel has agreed to increase Germany‘s annual payment of 4 billion euros ($ 4.8 billion) to 6 billion by 2025. Canadian Justin Trudeau has pledged to double his country’s share to 5 , 3 billion Canadian dollars (4.3 billion dollars), which was regarded by the United Kingdom as a significant victory. .
But on Italy’s turn, Draghi’s side could only muster an additional 100-150 million euros per year. Italy then decided not to formally make the pledge when it became apparent that it would be embarrassing compared to contributions from other countries, according to British and EU officials and a diplomatic note. Instead, the Italian government is expected to announce its contribution later in the year, officials said.
An Italian government spokesperson said there had been no negotiation on individual nation’s commitments to climate finance at the G-7 meeting. Italy is in the process of evaluating its commitment for the next meetings of the Group of 20, said the spokesperson.
Fears of the COP
The big concern of COP organizers today is that governments are not moving fast enough to be able to meet their key goals. Unless developing countries are convinced that the $ 100 billion a year will be reached, they will never agree to the expensive measures needed to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels, officials said.
âI recognize that there is still a lot to do both in terms of engagement and articulation of a collective vision on how the [$100 billion] This will be achieved in the coming years, âsaid COP26 President Alok Sharma, who sits in Johnson’s UK government. âWe have to go faster, because we are now in the home stretch of COP26. With a little over four months to go, we really need to get started. “
There are already fears that a huge summit with perhaps 20,000 people in attendance may be a logistical nightmare to hold as winter approaches in the UK during the pandemic. The summit was postponed last year as the coronavirus raged around the world, but Johnson’s team are adamant that preparations will continue for an in-person event this year.
Despite this, many of the preparatory talks between governments take place virtually, making it much more difficult to build trust and ensure meetings are productive, according to one concerned. Coaxing all the nations involved in the COP talks poses a much more difficult challenge for British leaders than aligning close and wealthy G-7 allies. The COP summit has been extended by one day to give delegates more time to move forward.
COP26 climate talks to start earlier as nations lament progress
âTackling climate change is a central mission of our G-7 presidency and we will continue to work with the G-7 countries and others to agree even stronger action to limit global emissions before the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP26 in Glasgow, “said a Briton. the government spokesperson said in an emailed statement.
UK officials privately believe Biden will come to pledge more money, and according to someone familiar with the G-7 talks, the US team has said it will speed up the timeline to double its contribution to climate finance, but not yet.
Biden climate envoy John Kerry told Bloomberg the United States will provide more money to help developing countries cut emissions and adapt.
Governments in other countries that watch Biden believe a major concern for him is domestic political pressure in the United States. With a very slim Senate majority for Democrats, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin – who is a staunch supporter of his home state’s coal industry – – wields enormous influence and prevents the president from being more ambitious. , some officials suggested.
The White House declined to comment specifically on whether national concerns had prevented Biden from supporting more ambitious measures at the G-7. Daleep Singh, Biden’s deputy national security adviser, said the president had already rallied the rest of the world to adopt âbold goalsâ at his leaders’ summit earlier this year.
Defense of Biden
“At the G-7, the United States has led efforts to establish a new multilateral infrastructure partnership called Building Back Better for the World, which will help help developing countries make the transition to a clean economy,” he said. Singh said in a statement. âWe also insisted and agreed to aim for a reallocation of $ 100 billion of IMF resources to low-income countries that could be used to invest in clean technologies. And we have agreed to commit now to ending international funding for coal-fired power generation this year.
A senior administration official said Biden remains more committed than ever to the climate goals he has set for himself, including achieving a carbon-free electricity sector by 2035. D ‘Here at the COP, the United States will work hard to accelerate the global transition to clean energy. and raise funds, the official said.
UK attacks EU ‘offensive’ as G-7 Brexit argument escalates
Even if the United States steps up its commitments, the fallout from Brexit remains a danger for negotiators. Some people involved fear that Johnson, who has hosted the G-7 and is also hosting the COP, is too unpopular with EU leaders to be able to convince them to go the extra mile in the climate talks.
The atmosphere at the G-7 has become particularly heated between Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron, in a latent dispute over the sausage trade to the UK region of Northern Ireland. At one point, Macron made a public appeal for “calm.” Johnson will need a lot as the COP deadline approaches.
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