Wednesday 12/8/21
G20 SUMMIT

G20 fails to set hard targets on carbon neutrality, ending coal use

The lack of specificity will come as a disappointment to environmental activists
31 October 2021, Italy, Rome: (L-R) Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, French President Emmanuel Macron, and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson toss coins in the Trevi fountain during their visit to the famous fountain on the sidelines of the G20 of World Leaders Summit. Photo: Oliver Weiken/dpa.
(L-R) Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, French President Emmanuel Macron, and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson toss coins in the Trevi fountain during their visit to the famous fountain on the sidelines of the G20 of World Leaders Summit. Photo: Oliver Weiken/dpa.

There will neither be a target date for achieving carbon neutrality nor for ending coal-fuelled power generation in the joint agreement following this year's G20 summit.

"We will do our utmost to avoid building new unabated coal power generation capacity, taking national circumstances into account, with a view to accelerating the transition away from coal to meet timeframes aligned with the goals of the Paris Agreement," read a statement referring to a 2015 deal that committed signatories to limited greenhouse gas emissions.

The statement also promises that G20 members will adhere to climate targets set in the Paris Agreement, but stops short of setting a deadline for doing so.

Earlier versions of a draft statement had committed the 20 biggest economies to reach carbon neutrality by 2050: The latest document speaks of a mid-century goal. It also lacks language calling for immediate action and is only committing to keep global warming "significantly" below 2 degrees Celsius annually.

The lack of specificity will come as a disappointment to environmental activists, who had hoped the G20 members would set an example and send a strong signal going into a climate change conference starting in Glasgow on Sunday, where nations are gathering to finesse their agreements from 2015.

According to existing national action plans, emissions will increase by 16% by 2030 - even though a decrease of 45% would be necessary to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius annually, as agreed in Paris.

Oxfam's Joern Kalinski said the lack of commitment displayed at the G20 summit left him "speechless": "We are heading towards global warming of 2.7 degrees Celsius and a catastrophic development in the climate crisis."

"The indecision and disunity shown here threatens to burn our planet," he said.

China to let emissions rise

China, the largest emitter of greenhouse gases by far, reaffirmed its goals to let its emissions still rise until 2030 and to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060, with President Xi Jinping calling on rich nations to "set an example" first.

India, the fourth largest emitter after China, the US and the EU, is also refusing to make a commitment to net zero emissions, indicating that the responsibility lies with wealthier nations.

However, Germany and the European Union also remain unwilling "to pay their fair share," said Oxfam climate expert Jan Kowalzig.

"A major problem in international climate policy is that industrialized countries are not prepared to contribute fairly to global climate protection, based on their historical responsibility for causing the crisis and their economic strength," he said.

"If things were really fair, the industrialized countries would have to become climate neutral well before 2050 and even develop a negative climate balance after that - which would mean more flexibility for the remaining countries." However, the rich countries are "simply not prepared" to do this, Kowalzig said.

Summit in Rome

The heads of state and government of the most important industrial nations, which together are responsible for 80% of greenhouse gas emissions, including US President Joe Biden and Germany's outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel, met for the summit in Rome on Saturday.

After the closing session, Merkel and other summit participants were expected to give their conclusions on the two-day event in press conferences.

For Merkel, this was the last G20 summit as German chancellor; the caretaker finance minister and most likely future head of government, Olaf Scholz, attended the summit alongside Merkel and was involved in bilateral talks.

Besides the climate crisis, the coronavirus pandemic was also on the agenda during the two-day meeting.

Italy, this year's G20 host nation, was one of the countries hardest hit by the outbreak of Covid-19 in Europe last year.

However, development organizations also criticized the group for failing to make concrete decisions also in regard to the pandemic.

The target of achieving a global vaccination rate of 40% by the end of the year was "illusory," said Fiona Uellendahl of World Vision.

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