G20 agrees on 1.5 degrees Celsius target, but leaves COP26 with a lot to do

G20 agrees on 1.5 degrees Celsius target, but leaves COP26 with 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 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 10 am.

“If the G-20 was a dress rehearsal for COP26, then world leaders fluffed their lines” said Jennifer Morgan, executive director of Greenpeace “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 favored 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.

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