G20 makes commitments to climate neutrality and coal financing

As they closed a two-day summit, leaders of the world's largest economies made a compromise to achieve carbon neutrality by mid-century. This was in preparation for the U.N. Climate Conference in Glasgow, Scotland.

G20 makes commitments to climate neutrality and coal financing

The final communique states that the Group of 20 leaders agreed to stop public financing of coal-fired power generation overseas, but did not set any target for domestic coal phasing out -- a clear nod towards coal-dependent countries like India and China.

The G-20 countries, which represent more than three quarters of the world's greenhouse gases emissions, and G-20 hosts Italy and Glasgow-host Britain were looking for ambitious targets from Rome. They could endanger the momentum that Glasgow has built.

Italian Premier Mario Draghi informed the leaders heading into Sunday's final session that they had to both set long-term goals as well as make short-term changes in order to achieve them.

He stated that "We need to accelerate the phasing out of coal and make more investments in renewable energy." "We must also ensure that we make the most of available resources. This means that we need to be able to adapt technologies and lifestyles to this new world.

Prince Charles of Britain echoed his message and encouraged leaders to listen to the young people inheriting the warming Earth. He warned that it was "quite literally the last chance saloon."

Charles stated, "It is impossible to not hear the despairing voices young people who sees you as the planet's stewards, holding their future in your hands."

According to the communique the G-20 reiterated past commitments of rich countries to mobilize $100 million annually to help poorer nations cope with climate change. They also committed to increasing financing to assist them in adapting.

The deadline for reaching carbon neutrality, or "net zero" emission, was a key point. This refers to a balance of greenhouse gases added and removed from the atmosphere. Italy admitted that it would not be able secure commitments to net-zero emissions by mid-century, rather than in a particular year, going into the summit

The last communique was even weaker. It "acknowledged the key relevance to achieving global net zero greenhouse gases emissions or carbon neutrality by or about mid-century."

French officials said that the non-specific language reflected the goal to affirm a common goal and allow flexibility to address "the diversity among the G-20 countries", especially China, India, and Indonesia.

The U.S., European Union, and China have all set 2050 as the deadline for net zero emission, while Russia, China, and Saudi Arabia aim for 2060. These leaders didn't arrive at Rome.

Sergey Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister, asked the question at a press conference: "Why do believe 2050 to be a magic number?" "If it's an ambition of the European Union it is the right for other countries to also have ambitions. ... We and others have not been able to prove that 2050 is something everyone should subscribe to.

G-20 members have struggled to reach an agreement on the future of coal, which is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Leaders agreed at the Rome summit to "end the provision of international financial finance for new, unabated coal power production abroad by the Ende of 2021."

This refers to financial support for coal plants overseas, which has been a problem in Western countries. Major Asian economies are doing the same. Last month, the Chinese President Xi Jinping declared at the U.N. General Assembly that Beijing would cease funding such projects. Japan and South Korea had made similar promises earlier in the year.

China has not yet set an end date to build coal plants at its own homes. China still relies on coal for its primary source of power generation. India and China have rejected proposals to make a G-20 declaration phasing out their domestic coal consumption.

Britain was disappointed by the failure of G-20 members to establish a goal for ending domestic coal use. Max Blain, the spokesperson for Boris Johnson, stated that the G-20 communique was not meant to be the main lever to secure climate change commitments. This would be discussed at the Glasgow summit.

He stated that the U.K. would push for more "ambitious" coal commitments.

John Kirton, the director of the G-20 Research Group, at the University of Toronto said that leaders took only "baby steps" and did not do much new. He cited the agreement as a way to "recall" and "reaffirm" their long-standing commitment to provide $100billion in assistance to poorer nations and to "stress that it is important to meet that goal fully as quickly as possible," rather than stating they are raising the full amount.

The agreement to stop international coal financing is "the one thing that's concrete and real." He said that this one matters.

As the G-20 ended, Greta Thunberg, a youth climate activist, and Vanessa Nakate wrote an open letter to media. They stressed three basic aspects of climate crisis, which are often downplayed. That time is running out; that any solution must give justice to those most affected and that big polluters often conceal their true emissions behind incomplete statistics.

The climate crisis will only get worse. It is possible to avoid the worst, and we can still turn it around. They wrote this just weeks after Thunberg had shamed global leaders over their "blahblahblahblah" rhetoric at a youth climate summit.

Apart from the climate issues, leaders also signed a landmark agreement allowing countries to establish a global minimum corporate income tax of 15%. The global minimum is designed to deter multinational corporations from shifting their profits to low-tax countries, where they may not do much business, and avoid tax evasion.

They also stated that they will continue to work on a French initiative to allow wealthier countries to channel $100 billion in financial assistance to Africa's poorer countries. This would be done through special drawing rights. These are a foreign exchange tool that is used to finance imports, which are also funded by the International Monetary Fund. They said that they are "working on actionable solutions" and that the $100 billion figure was a "total worldwide ambition" but not an absolute commitment. Individual countries have already redirected $45 billion on a voluntary basis.

This commitment is a reflection of concern that post-pandemic recovery may diverge, with rich countries recovering faster because of extensive vaccination and stimulus spending.

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