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 nationwide coal phase-out targets – a clear nod to coal-dependent countries, including China and India.
The Group of 20 countries account for more than three-quarters of global greenhouse gas emissions and Italy, host of the G-20, and Great Britain, host of Glasgow, were seeking more ambitious targets from Rome. Without them, the momentum for Glasgow could be lost.
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 phase-out of coal and invest more in renewable energy,” 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.”
His message was echoed by Britain’s Prince Charles, who urged leaders to listen to the young people who are inheriting from global warming and warned that “this is literally the last-ditch living room.”
“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.
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.
A key 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. Upon entering the summit, Italy had all but conceded that it would only be able to secure commitments to achieve net zero emissions “by mid-century”, rather than a specific year.
The final communiqué appeared even weaker, “recognizing the key relevance of achieving global net greenhouse gas emissions or carbon neutrality by or by mid-century.”
A French official said the non-specific language reflected the goal of asserting a common goal while providing flexibility to respond to “the diversity of the G-20 countries” – particularly China and India, as well as indonesia.
The United States and the European Union have set 2050 as a net zero emission deadline, while China, Russia and Saudi Arabia are aiming for 2060. The leaders of these three countries have not come to Rome.
“Why do you think 2050 is a magic number? Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov asked at a press conference. “If this is an ambition of the European Union, it is the right of other countries to also have ambitions. … No one has proven to us or anyone else that 2050 is something everyone has to buy into. “
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.
However, China has not set an end date for the construction of coal-fired power plants in its country. Coal is still China’s main source of electricity generation, and China and India have resisted proposals for a G-20 statement on phasing out domestic coal consumption.
The failure of the G-20 to set a target to phase out the use of domestic coal has been a disappointment for Britain. 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.
John Kirton, director of the G-20 Research Group at the University of Toronto, said the leaders “had only taken small steps” in the deal and had done next to nothing new. He underscored the agreement to “recall and reaffirm” their overdue commitment to deliver $ 100 billion in aid to the poorest countries and to “stress the importance of fully meeting that goal as soon as possible” instead. to declare that they accumulated the full amount. .
The agreement to end international coal funding “is the only thing that is specific and real. This one counts, ”he said.
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, 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.
In addition to climate issues, leaders signed a landmark agreement for countries to adopt a global minimum corporate tax of 15%. The global minimum aims to deter multinational companies from evading tax by shifting their profits to countries with ultra-low rates, but where companies can do little real activity.
The leaders also said they would continue to work on a French richer countries initiative to redirect $ 100 billion in financial support to Africa’s most needy countries in the form of Special Drawing Rights, a tool exchange rate used to help finance imports allocated by the International Monetary Fund. and also received by advanced countries. The leaders said they were “working on concrete options” to get there and defined the figure of $ 100 billion as a “total global ambition” without absolute commitment. Some 45 billion dollars have already been reallocated by the various countries on a voluntary basis.
The commitment reflects concern that the post-pandemic recovery is divergent, with rich countries rebounding faster due to massive immunization and stimulus spending.
___ Associated Press editors Jill Lawless and Sylvie Corbet contributed to this report.