G20 Summit makes commitments on climate neutrality and coal finance

Leaders of the world’s largest economies on Sunday pledged to achieve carbon neutrality “by or around the middle of the century” as they wrapped up a two-day summit that set the stage for the United Nations conference on climate in Glasgow, Scotland.

According to the final communiqué, the leaders of the Group of 20 also agreed to end public funding for overseas coal-fired power generation, but did not set any targets for the national phase-out of coal. – a clear nod to countries dependent on coal, including China and India, and a blow. to Great Britain which had hoped for more solid commitments before the Glasgow meeting.

The Group of 20 countries account for more than three-quarters of global greenhouse gas emissions, and Italy, host of the summit, was seeking solid targets on how to reduce emissions while helping poor countries cope with the impact of rising temperatures.

Without them, momentum could be lost for the larger annual talks which officially opened on Sunday in Glasgow and where countries around the world will be represented, including the poorest most vulnerable to rising seas, desertification. and other effects.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi told leaders ahead of the final working session on Sunday that they need to both set long-term goals and make short-term changes to achieve them.

“We need to accelerate the exit from coal and invest more in renewable energies,” he said. “We also need to make sure that we use available resources wisely, which means we need to become able to adapt our technologies and our lifestyles to this new world.”

According to the statement, the G-20 reaffirmed the past pledges of rich countries to mobilize $ 100 billion per year to help the poorest countries cope with climate change, and pledged to increase funding to help them. to adapt.

The sticking point remained the deadline for achieving carbon neutrality or “net zero” emissions, ie a balance between greenhouse gases added and removed from the atmosphere. Prior to the summit, Italy had all but conceded that it would only be able to commit to reaching net zero emissions “by mid-century”, rather than a specific year.

According to the final communiqué, G-20 leaders said they would “accelerate our actions in the areas of mitigation, adaptation and finance, recognizing the key relevance of achieving zero net greenhouse gas emissions. greenhouse or carbon neutrality by or around the middle of the century “.

A French official said that ‘mid-century’ meant 2050 in the strict sense, ‘but given the diversity of the G20 countries … it means that everyone agrees on a common goal while providing a little flexibility to take into account. national diversity takes into account. “Speaking on condition of anonymity, the French official cited the main carbon polluters, China and India, as well as Indonesia.

Some countries have set 2050 as the net zero emission deadline, while China, Russia and Saudi Arabia are aiming for 2060.

The future of coal, a key source of greenhouse gas emissions, has been one of the things the G-20 has struggled to agree on.

At the Rome summit, leaders agreed to “end the provision of international public funding for relentless new coal-fired power generation abroad by the end of 2021”.

This refers to financial support for building coal-fired power plants abroad, something that Western countries are moving away from and major Asian economies are now doing the same: Chinese President Xi Jinping told the General Assembly of United Nations last month that Beijing would stop funding such projects, and Japan and South Korea made similar pledges earlier in the year.

The failure of the G-20 to set a target to phase out the use of domestic charcoal was a blow to Britain, which hoped there would be progress on the issue at COP26. Prime Minister Boris Johnson spokesman Max Blain said the G-20 communiqué “was never meant to be the main lever to secure commitments on climate change”, which would be drawn up at the summit. Glasgow.

He said the UK would continue to push for “ambitious commitments” on coal.

Young climate activists Greta Thunberg and Vanessa Nakate issued an open letter to the media as the G-20 drew to a close, highlighting three fundamental aspects of the climate crisis that are often downplayed: Time is running out, that any solution must do justice to those most affected by climate change, and that the biggest polluters often hide behind incomplete statistics on their actual emissions.

“The climate crisis will only become more urgent. We can still avoid the worst consequences, we can always turn the tide. But not if we continue as we do today, ”they wrote, just weeks after Thunberg shamed world leaders for their“ blah blah blah ”rhetoric at a youth climate summit in Milan.

Britain’s Prince Charles addressed the G-20 on Sunday morning and urged leaders to listen to the young people who are inheriting from global warming, warning that “this is literally the last-ditch living room”.

Charles, a longtime environmental activist, said public-private partnerships were the only way to achieve the trillions of dollars in annual investments needed to switch to clean, sustainable energy sources that will mitigate global warming. global temperatures.

“It is impossible not to hear the desperate voices of young people who see you as the stewards of the planet, holding the sustainability of their future in your hands,” said Charles.


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