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G20 loath to commit in climate meeting tussle over carbon wording

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(C) Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan is greeted by Italy’s Ecological Transition Minister Roberto Cingolani at the start of the G20 Environment, Climate and Energy Ministers’ Meeting in Naples, Italy, July 22, 2021.


By Gavin Jones

NAPLES (Reuters) – Energy and environment ministers from the Group of 20 rich nations have yet to agree on commitments to cut carbon emissions, two sources said, after a night of negotiations by diplomats at their two-day gathering in Naples.

After the ministers produced a 25-point statement on biodiversity and the natural environment on Thursday, which was short on financing or firm commitments, Friday is devoted to the more contentious issue of energy and climate policy.

The latest draft of the communique seen by Reuters on Friday still contained several areas of dispute.

Relatively bland references to phasing out fossil fuel subsidies and eliminating carbon emissions by 2050 were being resisted to varying degrees by major emitters Brazil, China, India and Saudi Arabia, one source with knowledge of the negotiations said on condition of anonymity.

The G20 meeting is seen as a decisive stage ahead of United Nations climate talks, known as COP 26, which takes place in 100 days’ time in Glasgow in November.

Ahead of COP 26, environmental activists have hoped for a strengthening of climate targets, new commitments on climate financing, and an increase in countries committing to net zero emissions by 2050. Barring unexpected progress on Friday, they will be disappointed.

In passages of the draft seen by Reuters, the G20 “recognises”, “urges” “emphasises”, “recalls” and often “welcomes” but makes little use of the phrase “commits to”.

The urgency of climate action has been brought home this month by deadly floods in Europe, fires in the United States and sweltering temperatures in Siberia, but countries remain at odds on how to pay for costly policies to reduce global warming.

On fossil fuel subsidies, a particularly divisive issue, the draft recalls a 2009 Pittsburgh commitment for them to be phased out.

“We commit to increase our efforts to implement this commitment as soon as possible in the 2020s, according to national circumstances,” says one passage which is still contested.

If confirmed, it would mark a new commitment, even though “as soon as possible in the 2020s” is vague.

On phasing out unabated coal-fired power generation, the wording of the draft was weaker than a statement by the Group of Seven in Britain in May.

Italy, which holds the G20 presidency this year, is trying to firm up the language and its Ecological Transition Minister Roberto Cingolani was meeting individual delegations on Friday “to unblock the negotiations,” his spokesperson said.

It remains to be seen whether the final document will make any reference to a pledge by developed countries in 2009 to together contribute $100 billion each year by 2020 in climate finance to poorer countries, many of which are grappling with rising seas, storms and droughts worsened by climate change.

That target has yet to be met.

If Cingolani is unable to bridge differences, the final communique could repeat an unusual formula used in Thursday’s statement, which said “some” G20 members had committed to ensure at least 30% of land and at least 30% of the global ocean are conserved or protected by 2030.

G20 loath to commit in climate meeting tussle over carbon wording

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