G20 agrees on limiting global warming to 1.5 degree celsius above pre-industrial levels

The group of 20 countries are looking for common ground on how to reduce emissions while helping other countries deal with the impact of rising temperatures

FP Staff October 31, 2021 17:28:41 IST
G20 agrees on limiting global warming to 1.5 degree celsius above pre-industrial levels

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and U.S. President Joe Biden, from left, pose for the media prior to a meeting at the La Nuvola conference center for the G20 summit in Rome. AP

G20 leaders agreed Sunday on the need to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius but fell short of a hoped-for pledge on reaching net zero emissions, according to a draft communique seen by AFP.

The group of 20 major economies emit nearly 80 percent of carbon emissions, and are under pressure to go bold on climate to give a much-needed boost to crucial UN climate talks starting in Glasgow on Sunday.

According to the draft, which sources said would be the final one, the G20 reaffirm their support for the 2015 Paris Agreement goal of keeping "the global average temperature increase well below 2 degrees and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels".

In addition, they state that "keeping 1.5 degrees within reach will require meaningful and effective actions and commitment by all countries."

This will "require taking into account different approaches, through the development of clear national pathways that align long-term ambition with short- and medium-term goals, and with international cooperation and support".

Experts say meeting the 1.5 degree target means slashing global emissions nearly in half by 2030 and to "net-zero" by 2050.

But the draft declaration, due to be published later Sunday, does not set a clear deadline for carbon net neutrality, saying it should be achieved "by or around mid century."

Summit host Italy was pushing for a 2050 target, but this was hard to square with China, the world's largest carbon emitter, which has set its own deadline at 2060.

The declaration includes a commitment to "put an end to the provision of international public finance for new unabated coal power generation abroad by the end of 2021", a key pledge that mirrors what was already promised by China in September.

Elsewhere, it reaffirms the so-far unmet commitment to mobilise $100 billion for developing countries for climate adaptation costs.

Opening the formal discussions on climate on the second and final day of the G20 Rome summit Sunday, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi urged counterparts to aim high. "The decisions we make today will have a direct impact on the success of the Glasgow summit and ultimately on our ability to tackle the climate crisis," he said.

Britain's Prince Charles also urged leaders of the world's biggest economies on Sunday to put words into action as they tackled the global climate change crisis on the final day of a weekend summit that is setting the tone for an even bigger UN climate conference opening in Glasgow, Scotland.

Warning that "it is quite literally the last-chance saloon," Charles told the Group of 20 leaders that public-private partnerships were the only way to achieve the trillions of dollars in annual investment needed to transition to clean, sustainable energy sources that will mitigate the warming of global temperatures.

"It is impossible not to hear the despairing voices of young people who see you as the stewards of the planet, holding the viability of their future in your hands," Charles told the presidents and prime ministers gathered in Rome.

The future of coal, a key source of greenhouse gas emissions, has been one of the hardest things for the G-20 to agree on. However, the US and other countries are hoping to get a commitment to end overseas financing of coal-fired power generation, said a senior US official who spoke on condition of anonymity to preview President Joe Biden's plans.

Western countries have moved away from financing coal projects in developing countries, and major Asian economies are now doing the same: Chinese President Xi Jinping announced at the UN General Assembly last month that Beijing would stop funding such projects, and Japan and South Korea made similar commitments earlier in the year.

China has not set an end date for building domestic coal plants at home, however. Coal is still China's main source of power generation, and both China and India have resisted proposals for a G-20 declaration on phasing out domestic coal consumption.

COP26 President Alok Sharma said China's carbon-cutting commitments — known as the nationally determined contribution, or NDC — so far fall short of expectations.

"In terms of their NDC, it moved forward somewhat from 2015 ... but of course we expected more," Sharma told the BBC. He added that while Beijing has pledged to stop international coal financing and reducing domestic coal "we need to see the details of that."

UK prime minister Boris Johnson said before the Rome summit that he tried but could not get a commitment on a coal phase-out from Xi, who did not travel to the gathering.

In Glasgow, Johnson said, "we want these leaders … to focus on the commitments they can make, moving away from the use of fossil fuels, moving away from coal-fired power stations domestically."

Climate campaigners were hoping that rich G-20 countries would take steps to meet a long-standing but yet-to-be-fulfilled commitment to raise $100 billion annually to help developing countries move toward greener economies and adapt to the changing climate.

Youth climate activists Greta Thunberg and Vanessa Nakate issued an open letter to the media as the G-20 was wrapping up, stressing three fundamental aspects of the climate crisis that often are downplayed: that time is running out, that any solution must provide justice to the people most affected by climate change, and that the biggest polluters often hide behind incomplete statistics about their true emissions.

"The climate crisis is only going to become more urgent. We can still avoid the worst consequences, we can still turn this around. But not if we continue like today," they wrote, just weeks after Thunberg shamed global leaders for their "blah blah blah" rhetoric during a youth climate summit in Milan.

G-20 leaders also discussed the COVID-19 pandemic and the uneven distribution of vaccines in the world. On Saturday they endorsed a global minimum tax on corporations, a linchpin of new international tax rules aimed at blunting fiscal paradises amid skyrocketing profits of some multinationals.

And after a meeting on the sidelines about Iran's nuclear program, Biden, Johnson, Germany's Angela Merkel and France's Emmanuel Macron made a joint statement expressing their "determination to ensure that Iran can never develop or acquire a nuclear weapon."

They also voiced concern that Tehran "has accelerated the pace of provocative nuclear steps" after halting negotiations on a return to the nuclear agreement, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

With inputs from agencies

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