The world must raise its ambitions for climate action ahead of the G20 leaders’ summit in October, US climate envoy John Kerry said after ministers from the group of 20 rich states failed to agree on the wording of key commitments after a summit in Naples.
Mr Kerry, who is US president Joe Biden’s special envoy for climate, hailed the “important” meeting of energy and environment ministers in the Italian port city. But the failure to agree common language will be seen as a setback to hopes of securing a meaningful accord at major United Nations climate talks in November.
The Naples meeting was seen as a decisive step on the road to those talks, known as COP26, which will take place in Glasgow, Scotland. “We must raise our global ambition ahead of the G20 Leaders’ Summit in October,” Mr Kerry said, referring to a G20 gathering due to take place in Rome on the eve of COP26.
Italy’s ecological transition minister Roberto Cingolani said the ministers could not agree on two disputed issues, which would now have to be discussed at a G20 summit in Rome in October.
“Commitments made today lack substance and ambition. It is now up to G20 heads of state and government to discard this document at the October leaders’ summit,” said online activist network Avaaz.
Italy holds the rotating presidency of the G20, and Mr Cingolani, as chairman of the two-day gathering, said negotiations with China, Russia and India had proved especially tough. He said that in the end China and India had declined to sign the two contested points.
One of these was phasing out coal power, which most countries wanted to achieve by 2025 but some said would be impossible for them. The other concerned the wording surrounding a 1.5-2 degree Celsius limit on global temperature increases that was set by the 2015 Paris Agreement.
Average global temperatures have already risen by more than 1 degree compared to the pre-industrial baseline used by scientists and are on track to exceed the 1.5-2 degree ceiling.
“Some countries wanted to go faster than what was agreed in Paris and to aim to cap temperatures at 1.5 degrees within a decade, but others, with more carbon based economies, said let’s just stick to what was agreed in Paris,” Mr Cingolani said.
Ahead of COP26, environmental activists had hoped that the G20 gathering would lead to a strengthening of climate targets, new commitments on climate financing, and an increase in countries committing to net zero emissions by 2050. “The G20 is failing to deliver. Italy’s G20 tagline is ‘people, planet, prosperity’, but today the G20 is delivering pollution, poverty and paralysis,” said Avaaz.
Mr Cingolani said the G20 had made no new financial commitments, but added that Italy would increase its own climate financing for underdeveloped countries.
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 over how to pay for costly policies to reduce global warming.
Despite the two points of disagreement, Mr Cingolani said the G20 had put together a 58-point communiqué and that all the countries agreed that decarbonisation was a necessary goal. “This is the first time that the G20 has accepted that climate and energy policies are closely interconnected,” he said when asked which aspect of the package he was most pleased with.
“What happened today would have been unthinkable four months ago,” he added.