Sep 21

G20 Climate Talks Disappoint, Placing Hope on COP26 Summit

Dimitri Frolowsckii
Nov 1, 2021
Image: G20

Leaders of the G20 countries agreed on a climate deal that fell well short of what some nations were anticipating. As a result, more climate actions would be needed at the COP26 summit in Glasgow this week.

The final communique agreed to phase out investment in new coal power plants abroad (non-domestic) by the end of this year. However, regarding domestic coal, it contained a general pledge to support nations that commit to “phasing out investment in new unabated coal power generation capacity to do so as soon as possible.”

The final document mirrors similar pledges made during the 2015 Paris Climate Accords, in which member-nations commited to hold the worldwide average temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius.

The final communique also recognized the efforts of some nations to ensure at least 30 percent of global oceans and seas are protected by 2030, but only encouraged others to make similar commitments.

Additionally, during the meeting, the member-states agreed to be “vigilant of the evolution of energy markets,” referring to surging prices for oil, natural gas and coal that have rocked much of Europe and Asia. The G20 leaders also reaffirmed a commitment to support the green transition in developing countries by jointly mobilizing USD100 billion annually through 2025.

Although COP26’s U.K. hosts had aimed to “consign coal to history,” many nations remain dependent on the fossil fuel that represents one of the biggest obstacles to limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees. The recent energy crisis has underscored the significance of secure supplies and driven up coal prices amid a shortage of natural gas.

Discussions over the past week revealed disagreements over objectives and timelines on climate issues, with many officials pointing the finger at countries such as China, Russia and India. In effect, divisions were on display over the date for achieving net-zero carbon emissions, with the final communique only mentioning that it would be “by or around mid-century,” rather than explicitly referring to the 2050 deadline pledged by the G7 nations at their June summit.

The statement offered little in the way of concrete action. However, it committed to “significantly reducing” greenhouse gas emissions “considering national circumstances.” Much of the wording, including references to national circumstances and a circular carbon economy, favoured Australia, China and India.

However, the summit rowed back on commitments to phase out domestic coal use. Because of that, the outcome of the talks is disappointing on both overall climate ambition and coal power, and stands in contrast to the G7 summit results. Because of that, countries worldwide are anticipating more actions during the upcoming COP26 that will take place in just a few days.

Dimitri Frolowsckii

Dimitri Frolowsckii is a political and energy analyst with over 15 years of experience in journalism.

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