G20 members nations agree to end overseas coal financing but lack any firm climate commitments including net zero emissions targets.

What is Happening?

Leaders of the group of 20 countries agreed on a climate deal that commits its member states to end overseas coal financing by the end of this year and remain committed “to hold the global average temperature increase well below 2 degrees Celsius and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.”

The two-day G20 summit in Rome saw leaders from 20 of the world’s largest economies negotiating steps on economic recovery post-pandemic and tackling climate change. While member states managed to reach a consensus to end public financing for coal fired power plants abroad, no targets were set to phase out domestic coal production – a decision that clearly favours China, India and Russia, the world’s largest carbon emitters and countries that remain heavily reliant on coal. 

Also known as the dirtiest fossil fuel, coal is the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions on the planet, with China accounting for more than half of the global coal consumption in 2020. Scientists warn the world must phase out and eliminate coal as a power generation in order to prevent global warming reaching catastrophic levels. 

The summit ended without any concrete commitment on net-zero emissions, with countries only arriving at compromise wording for when G20 nations need to reach carbon neutrality. G7 member states have said to set 2050 the latest, though the G20 as a whole settled on with a vague ““by or around mid-century.” China, Saudi Arabia and Russia however, remain unmoved with their 2060 net zero goal. 

According to Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi and host of the G20 summit, leaders were close to reaching the goal of providing $100bn a year in climate financing to developing countries, a key pledge that has already been pushed to 2023. Climate financing will likely be a key talking point at the COP26 UN climate summit as well. 

You might also like: COP26: What You Need to Know About the Upcoming UN Climate Talks

Many experts and environmental activists have voiced their disappointment on the lack of concrete targets or commitments that have come out of the G20 summit, including the members themselves. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said “there is a huge way to go” and that the target of 1.5 degrees is “very much in the balance. Currently we are not going to hit it. We have to be honest with ourselves.”

António Guterres, the UN’s secretary-general, wrote in a tweet that he leaves “Rome with [his] hopes unfulfilled” but is heading to COP26 to “to keep the goal of 1.5 degrees alive and to implement promises on finance and adaptation for people and planet.” The two-week long UN climate talks, which kicks off on October 31, will be crucial to stem the climate crisis. According to the landmark Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, the planet is already 1.1C warmer than it was prior to the Industrial Revolution and we’re well on our way towards a 2.7C temperature increase based on current climate pledges. Scientists urge that the world, especially high carbon emitters, must agree on stricter and more ambitious climate goals in order to avoid a climate catastrophe.

Featured image by: Paul Kagame/Flickr