G20 leaders agree to 1.5°C global warming target
The G20 countries have agreed to transition to net zero emissions globally by mid-century to keep the 1.5-degree Celsisus goal in sight, according to the statement issued late on Sunday.
G20 leaders on Sunday committed to the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, but fell short on a target of zero emissions, with activists and experts criticising a lack of ambition ahead of crucial climate talks that opened in Glasgow.
While the leaders agreed in a final statement about the need for “meaningful and effective” action to limit global warming, it offered few concrete commitments.
The G20 countries have agreed to transition to net zero emissions globally by mid-century to keep the 1.5-degree Celsisus goal in sight, according to the statement issued late on Sunday. The pledges by the Group of 20 major economies, who emit nearly 80% of carbon emissions, are viewed as crucial to the success of COP26, which is being held in Glasgow over the next fortnight.
The countries also agreed to “accelerate actions” in the 2020s, with their nationally determined contributions and long-term net zero strategies. They committed to scale up finance and promised to mobilise $100 billion annually through 2025. On climate finance, the draft text stipulated that countries should use their Covid-19 recovery plans for climate and mobilise finance from development banks.
Following a two-day meeting in Rome, the Group of 20 major economies agreed that keeping that goal – which had initially been raised in the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement – would require effective actions.
On energy, the G20 nations promised to stop financing overseas coal immediately, commit to energy transition that meets timeframes aligned with the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels and cooperate for enabling countries to phase out investment in new coal.
“We’re proud of these results but we must remember that it’s only the start,” said Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, host of the talks.
Earlier, the COP26 climate talks opened in Scotland with a warning by summit president Alok Sharma that they were the “last, best hope” to keep the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
As an accelerating onslaught of extreme weather events underscores the devastating impacts of burning fossil fuels, he said: “If we act now and we act together we can protect our precious planet.”
In the statement, G20 leaders reaffirmed their support for the Paris agreement goals 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”.
They added that “keeping 1.5 degrees within reach will require meaningful and effective actions and commitment by all countries, taking into account different approaches”, through the development of national plans that “align long-term ambition with short- and medium-term goals”.
Experts say meeting the 1.5 degree target means slashing global emissions nearly in half by 2030 and to “net-zero” by 2050 – and the G20 set no firm date, speaking only of reaching the goal of net zero “by or around mid century”.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said global efforts to tackle climate change, which go back decades, would fail if the UN negotiations in Glasgow were not successful. “The countries most responsible for historic and present-day emissions are not yet doing their fair share of the work,” Johnson told reporters after a Group of 20 summit, before flying to Glasgow for the COP26 meeting.
“If we are going to prevent COP26 from being a failure, then that must change, and I must be clear that if Glasgow fails then the whole thing fails.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who warned on Friday that the world was rushing headlong towards climate disaster, said the Rome summit was not all he hoped for. “While I welcome the #G20’s recommitment to global solutions, I leave Rome with my hopes unfulfilled — but at least they are not buried,” he said in a tweet. “Onwards to #COP26 in Glasgow to keep the goal of 1.5 degrees alive and to implement promises on finance and adaptation for people & planet.”
Sunita Narain, director general, Centre for Science and Environment, said: “I think the statement is weak. It doesn’t go far enough on issues of frontloading emissions by 2030. There is a reference to stopping international coal financing but that will only shift the energy burden to poorer countries that do not have access to power. They haven’t referred to stopping coal in their own countries. The UK has switched on their coal power plants because of high gas prices and bulbs at COP 26 will be powered by coal.”
The G20 leaders are expected to speak at COP26 during the World Leaders Summit, where each leader will announce their country’s contribution in curbing the climate crisis. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to address COP26 and over 120 world leaders on Monday.
The pathway to achieve the goal, however, was not clear in the statement. Under current national climate commitments, the world is on track for a temperature increase of 2.7 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, the United Nations Environment Programme warned on October 25, which is much above the goal of the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement to keep it below 2 degrees Celsius compared with the beginning of the industrial era.
“We recognise that the impacts of climate change at 1.5°C are much lower than at 2°C,” the statement said. “We commit to significantly reduce our collective greenhouse gas emissions, taking into account national circumstances and respecting our NDCs.”
Unless countries agree to steeply cut carbon emissions, global temperatures will rise beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius in the next 10 to 20 years compared with pre-industrial times, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s largest group of climate experts, said in its scientific assessment in August.
India’s G20 sherpa Piyush Goyal said the G20 statement talks of a “global net zero transition by mid century.” “Developed nations have enjoyed the fruits of energy and they will need to go for net zero faster, so that developing nations have some carbon space. For now, there is no adequate technology to absorb large amounts of clean energy into grids. There is a need to look at more technology and innovation before we can identify the year (for achieving net zero),” Goyal said. He added that India managed to safeguard the interest of developing countries by ensuring that the statement acknowledges that developed nations need to deliver on affordable finance and innovative technology. He also said the statement acknowledges that rich countries haven’t done enough on climate finance and they need to be more forthcoming.
The statement, he confirmed, reiterated the promise of mobilising $100 billion through 2025.
“The G20 leaders’ call to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius is significant. COP26 now needs to follow up with measures to cut emissions rapidly in this decade and urgently scale up climate finance,” said Ulka Kelkar, economist and director, climate at World Resources Institute.
(With inputs from agencies)
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