World leaders departed from Rome from the G20 Summit heading for Glasgow to Cop26 on 31st October 2021 having met to discuss actions to address economic recovery from Covid-19, the ongoing public health emergency, and the climate crisis. One would have expected, given their next destination, that significant and monumental actions would be agreed to demonstrate that the richest nations were committed to addressing climate change. Alas this was not the case.

There was agreement that there remained a will to keep alive the aim of limiting global temperature increases to 1.5°C. The UN emissions gap report declares that current commitments will result in a 2.7°C increase, dropping to 2.2°C if nations with long-term net-zero ambitions take the actions required to achieve them. The G20 countries account for circa 80% of global emissions in 2020 so it is well within their grasp to impact this.

Two countries of focus are China and India.  China is responsible for 28% of carbon emissions and India 7%, ranking them first and third in the world. Disappointingly, China has set 2060 for its net-zero target – a decade after the rest – and India for 2070. With no sense of urgency from two of the highest pollutants in the world, this narrows the possibility for success considerably. It must be said that ‘keeping alive the will’ to limit global warming is essentially a pointless statement.

With regard to fossil fuels, the G20 nations did include a commitment to end overseas coal finance from the end of 2021 but no agreement to stop domestic coal finance with China, Australia and India reportedly resisting a time-bound agreement. The summit settled on all nations striving for a “largely decarbonized” power system this decade. It had been hoped that nations would agree to “do their utmost to avoid building new unabated coal capacity” domestically with immediate effect. This is simply not going to happen.

A ‘green recovery’ narrative was agreed which stipulates those countries should ensure that any finance channelled into the Covid-19 recovery should be allocated with a “do no harm” climate commitment. Without a clear definition of what counts as “sustainable”, and no commitments to this, the words of the narrative have little effect.

There was also a significant step forward with a landmark acknowledgement of methane’s “significant contribution” to global warming. Key sources of methane include natural gas production, fracking, cattle, and waste mismanagement Whilst the US, UK and EU have made joint pledges this year to cut absolute methane emissions by 30% by 2030, against a 2019 baseline, no targets were agreed by the other nations.

The pledge to provide $100bn annually for to less wealthy nations to finance climate action measures was first announced in 2009, formalised in 2015 and has never been met. Whilst there was a commitment from G7 earlier in the year to get this on track for 2023, no commitment from the G20 nations was forthcoming.

Also, in line with what was agreed at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity earlier this year, an intention was expressed for all nations to draw up plans to halt biodiversity loss by 2030 and to achieve loss reversal within this timeframe if possible. Again, no timebound or number measures were discussed.

All in all, the G20 Summit was an opportunity for the nations that have the greatest impact and the financial security to agree measurable actions on a global scale to make a worldwide impact on the rising temperatures. Financing adaptation in vulnerable countries was also not backed up by timeframes or targets. This was a missed opportunity to come together and agree the actions needed to protect lives, homes, and businesses from the climate crisis across these nations and the rest of the world. What was achieved was not worth the climate impact of the delegation travelling to Rome. Regardless of whether the lack of motivation is driven by complacency, ego and/or cost, we remain on a pathway to disaster. Every nation’s lack of action is just selfish – pledges and statement are simply just more hot air!



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