The G20 may have been a ‘failure’ on climate change, but there is still hope for COP26

The crucial COP26 climate conference in Glasgow has been declared dead by some before it even starts, after the G20 nations failed to deliver any strong commitments at their meeting in Rome.

However, such statements may be premature, with all eyes on the much more important – and complicated – conversations that begin in Glasgow.

“My impression is that Glasgow is a dead duck before it even starts,” political journalist Phil Coorey said on ABC’s RN Breakfast.

There is no doubt that the result in Rome was a victory for those who tried to slow down efforts against climate change.

A strong communication that commits the world’s largest economies to stopping subsidies for fossil fuels, phasing out coal production or tackling methane emissions would have been a shot in the arm for COP26.

On all these points – and others – the club of the world’s largest economies has failed to agree on anything significant when it comes to climate.

Australia reportedly played its part in this failure and opposed measures to phase out subsidies to the fossil fuel industry.

The British Prime Minister Boris Johnson – who has focused heavily on success in Glasgow – slammed his other world leaders, saying the commitments made in Rome were “drops in a rapidly warming sea when one considers the challenge” we have all admitted is ahead of us “.

“The countries that are most responsible for historical and contemporary emissions are not yet doing their fair share of the work,” he said.

“If we are to prevent COP26 from becoming a failure, that must change.”

About 50 G20 leaders in formal attire pose for a photo at the start of the G20 summit in Rome.
At the G20 summit in Rome, the world’s largest economies failed to agree on anything significant when it comes to climate.(Reuters: Yara Nardi)

US President Joe Biden blamed Russia and China for the mistakes.

“Russia and China did not show up in terms of any commitment to deal with climate change,” he said after the summit.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres was downplayed.

“I leave Rome with my hopes unfulfilled – but at least they are not buried,” Guterres said.

Despite the fact that the G20 was a disappointment to those who fought for a strong climate effort, the summit was only a small battle.

The rest of the match is ahead and it involves a much more complicated dynamic.

Still a ‘good chance’ for climate change

The major economies of the G20 represent around 80 per cent of world emissions.

But when they come to Glasgow, they will be confronted with the rest of the world, which is most affected by the emissions from these G20 nations.

Small island nations and the least developed countries have high votes at COPs.

They have been crucial to the architecture of the Paris Agreement and have driven much of the ambition that the rest of the world has agreed to.

Howard Bamsey – who led Australia’s negotiations at previous climate conferences – says the outcome of the G20 is no cause for dismay.

“I’m not too discouraged by the fact that the G20 could not find a common formula,” he said.

Sir. Bamsey said the G20 approach, which involves a high-level declaration, is passé.

“We’re past the point where it’s sufficient to issue high – level generic commitments. What people are looking for now are specific commitments,” he said.

And, he said, it would never be likely to get concrete commitments out of the G20 before COP26 even gets underway.

The silhouette of a power plant is seen against the sky early in the evening, with thick smoke billowing from three towers.
The result in Rome was a victory for those who tried to slow down efforts against climate change.(Shutterstock: Kip Scott)

Richie Merzian of the progressive think tank Australia Institute was also a negotiator for Australia at previous climate conferences.

“G20 members are the largest users and producers of coal and are unlikely to lead the phasing out of coal or fossil fuels,” Mr Merzian said.

“The ambition should always be at the COP, and there is still a good chance that more promises will come.”

Bill Hare, CEO of the think tank Climate Analytics, said that although the lack of ambition in the G20 communiqué was a lost opportunity, it would not undermine what is happening in Glasgow.

“Everything is still on the table,” he said.

“The rubber will really come into play, politically, in the second week of the Glasgow COP, where ministers are directly involved in the final deal.”


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