G20 leaders launched a desperate push Sunday to agree a joint approach to tackling climate change, with officials working through the night to reach a meaningful commitment ahead of UN talks.
The Group of 20 major economies emit nearly 80 percent of carbon emissions, and a promise of action would provide a much-needed boost to COP26 climate talks starting in Glasgow on Sunday.
But draft communiques suggest they would fall short of a firm pledge to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels or a clear timeline on how to reach net zero emissions.
Experts say meeting the 1.5 degree target the most ambitious goal in the 2015 Paris climate deal — means slashing global emissions nearly in half by 2030 and to “net-zero” by 2050.
Officials in Rome “negotiated the whole night” and into Sunday morning, an EU source said, pressing for something to take to Glasgow, where nearly 200 leaders gather over the next few days.
US President Joe Biden is among those pushing for tough action in Rome, although his own ambitious climate policy is mired by infighting among his own party.
A senior US official said late Saturday that elements of the final G20 statement “are still being negotiated”.
The official expressed hope the summit would commit “to end overseas financing of coal”, offer “positive language” on decarbonising the power sector and see more countries sign up to targets on cutting methane.
Speaking to the weekly Journal du Dimanche, French President Emmanuel Macron said the Rome summit had to “do its utmost” to ensure the success of Glasgow, but that “nothing is ever written before a COP”.
“Let’s not forget that in Paris, in 2015, nothing was decided in advance,” Macron said.
President Xi Jinping of China by far the world’s biggest carbon polluter is absent from the meeting, as is Russia’s Vladimir Putin, although they are participating via videolink.
Among the flurry of bilaterals planned on the sidelines of the Rome summit, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met Sunday with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and had a bilateral planned with summit host Mario Draghi, the Italian prime minister.
Going alone ‘not an option’
After a visit to the world-famous Trevi Fountain, the G20 leaders were due to hear from Britain’s Prince Charles, a committed environmentalist who has been making the case for urgent action.
The heir to the throne will remind them of their “overwhelming responsibility to generations yet unborn”, his office said.
“It is impossible not to hear the despairing voices of young people who see you as the stewards of the planet, holding the viability of their future in your hands.”
On Saturday, Draghi also urged G20 leaders to act together on climate, but also on improving the delivery of vaccines and on helping the world recover from the devastation of Covid-19.
“From the pandemic, to climate change, to fair and equitable taxation, going it alone is simply not an option,” he told the gathered leaders.
The G20 showed it could work together on some issues, green lighting a deal for a minimum tax of 15 percent on global corporations, as part of a reform plan inked by almost 140 nations.
US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen hailed it as “historic”, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel — attending her last G20 summit with her likely successor Olaf Scholz — called it a “great success”.
Rome is hosting the first in-person G20 summit since the coronavirus pandemic, set in the monumental surroundings of EUR, a fascist-era neighbourhood known for its modernist architecture.
Biden, on a European trip he hopes will reassert US leadership after the tumultuous Trump years, also met Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan on Sunday.
Earlier this month the Turkish leader threatened to expel a slew of Western ambassadors, including from the United States, over their support for a jailed Turkish philanthropist.