G20 Leaders’ Final Declaration Offers Few Commitments on Climate

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ROME – Leaders of the Group of 20 major economies agreed on Sunday a final statement calling for “meaningful and effective” action to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, but offering few concrete commitments.

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The result of days of tough negotiations between diplomats leaves a huge work to be done at a broader United Nations climate summit in Scotland, where most of the G20 leaders will fly directly from Rome.

The G20 bloc, which includes Brazil, China, India, Germany and the United States, accounts for roughly 80% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

The final document says that current national plans on how to curb emissions will need to be strengthened “if necessary” and does not make any specific reference to 2050 as a date to achieve net zero carbon emissions.

“We recognize that the impacts of climate change at 1.5 ° C are much lower than at 2 ° C. Keeping 1.5 ° C within reach will require significant and effective action and commitment from all countries,” the statement said.

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The 1.5 ° C threshold is what UN experts say must be met to avoid a dramatic acceleration of extreme weather events such as droughts, storms and floods, and to reach it they recommend that net zero emissions be reached by 2050.

Leaders recognized “the key importance” of achieving net zero carbon emissions by the middle of this century.

China, the world’s largest carbon emitter, has set a 2060 target date, and other big polluters like India and Russia have also not committed to the 2050 target date.

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UN experts say that even if current national plans are fully implemented, the world is headed for global warming of 2.7 degrees, with catastrophic acceleration of events such as droughts, storms and floods.

The draft includes a commitment to halt funding for overseas coal power generation by the end of this year, but did not set a date to phase out coal power, promising to do so “as soon as possible.”

They also did not set a date for phasing out fossil fuel subsidies, saying they will strive to do so “in the medium term.”

On methane, which has a more powerful but less lasting impact than carbon dioxide on global warming, they softened the wording of an earlier draft.


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