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G20 warned to do more to pull its weight ahead of COP26

22 October 2021 Keiron Greenhalgh

Two separate groups of countries representing over half the world's population publicly called out developed nations' commitment to pulling their weight in combatting climate change this week ahead of a G20 meeting in Rome and the subsequent COP26 meeting in Glasgow.

Backing up the accusations that the industrialized world was ignoring its promises, a UN study showed developed nations are failing to cut their production of hydrocarbons by anywhere near enough to meet their Paris Agreement commitments, and work by environmentalists uncovered behind-the-scenes efforts to finagle exceptions to the pledges to slow global warming.

In an 18 October statement, a group of developing nations that will go into battle together at the COP26 negotiations—led by China and India—hammered industrialized countries for not cutting their emissions as much as promised, shirking their historical responsibilities, backing global net-zero targets they themselves had yet to chart a path to achieving, and failing to provide funding to the less fortunate that was promised over a decade ago.

The group, known as the Like-Minded Developing Countries (LMDCs), accused developed nations of underestimating their own global warming impact and said 2050 net-zero targets for industrialized countries should be rapidly advanced, perhaps to as early as the end of the current decade.

Developed countries have overused their domestic carbon space and used that of developing countries, the ministerial statement said. Developed countries should therefore leave the remaining atmospheric space to the developing world. If they don't, the Paris Agreement's goals and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change's objective will not be met, they added.

The signees also took issue with mid-century net-zero targets. "Despite their lack of ambition shown in the pre-2020 period, as well as in their Paris Agreement [Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs)], major developed countries are now pushing to shift the goal posts of the Paris Agreement from what have already been agreed by calling for all countries to adopt Net Zero targets by 2050," the LMDCs said.

That goal runs counter to the Paris Agreement and is "anti-equity and against climate justice," they said, adding that "demands for 'net zero' emissions for all countries by 2050 will exacerbate further the existing inequities between developed and developing countries."

They argue that the Paris Agreement suggests achieving a balance between emissions and removal by sinks in the second half of this century is a global aspiration rather than a national target for all countries.

Under the 2015 accord, developed countries offered to foot the bill for developing nations' mitigation and adaptation commitments, funds that have so far failed to surface

So, the developing nations said, it is finally time for the promised funds of around $100 billion/year to move from the Global North to the Global South—the mostly lower-income countries outside of Europe and North America typically on the periphery of development.

Developed countries must go further still, the developing nations said, raising sums beyond the initial figure after laying out assurances and a roadmap to meeting their long-promised financial commitments.

The pressure will help support backing for greater US foreign aid to combat climate change in Washington, said IHS Markit Principal Global Risks Advisor John Raines, although the Biden administration has a lot of other energy transition issues and spending priorities on its plate at the moment, including the fiscal year 2022 budget reconciliation bill.

Go further

In a parallel development, a group of nine countries led by European nations who aren't big enough to join the G20 on 21 October called on the larger economic powers to make it clear they are "fully aware of the responsibility they bear."

The G20 comprises 19 countries and the European Union. The 19 countries are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, France, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the UK, and the US.

The 2021 G20 Rome summit will begin on 30 October and end 31 October, the day COP26 is scheduled to begin. The main COP26 program kicks off with a World Leaders' Summit (1-2 November), which the host British government is encouraging its counterparts to use as a platform to set out "ambitious actions" to reduce emissions.

Before that though, "the world needs urgently needs leadership from the biggest countries—now," said the group of nine nations including Denmark and Sweden.

They called on the G20 to show "the courage" to put "the might of their economies behind the efforts to avert a global climate crisis" through supporting those in need, submitting NDCs that will get the planet on track to limit global warming before COP26, and sticking their hands in their pockets for the promised $100 billion annual climate investment fund.

IHS Markit Senior Research Analyst Petya Barzilska told Net-Zero Business Daily the chiding was an attempt to open up alternative diplomatic mechanisms in an effort to obtain concrete pledges from the wealthier nations.

Six of the signatories are part of a pool of smaller EU nations that have agreed to reach carbon neutrality, but who face diverse paths to reaching that goal, and will be required to use public funds to mitigate the impact on low-income households and businesses, said Barzilska, a part of the IHS Markit country risk analysis group.

Hydrocarbon promises

The world's richest nations have also been failing the planet when it comes to hydrocarbon use and the pollution emitted as a result, according to a UN Environment Programme (UNEP) study.

Taking an in-depth look at activities in countries including Australia, Canada, Germany, Russia, Saudi Arabia, COP 26 host the UK, and the US, the UNEP found governments plan to produce more than twice the amount of fossil fuels in 2030 than would be consistent with limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. It added that things have hardly changed since the first such analysis in 2019.

Most major oil and natural gas producers are planning on increasing production out to 2030 or beyond, and several major coal producers are planning on continuing or increasing production, it warned. The report also said that G20 countries have directed around $300 billion in new funds to fossil fuel activities since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic—more than they have toward clean energy.

In addition, the G20's members have significantly decreased new international public finance for fossil fuel production recently, UNEP found, although the UK is hoping to fashion an agreement to end public funding for overseas fossil fuels in Glasgow.

Overall, global governments' production plans and projections would lead to 240% more coal, 57% more oil, and 71% more gas in 2030 than would be consistent with limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the study showed.

As a result, UNEP called on the governments to acknowledge in their energy and climate plans that there is a need to wind down global fossil fuel production; chart courses to a "rapid, just, and equitable wind-down" of fossil fuel production; place restrictions on fossil fuel exploration; and phase out government support for fossil fuel production.

The study led climate activist Greta Thunberg to tweet that it should no longer be possible for politicians to get away with ignoring the gap between their words and action.

Growing gap

The gap between words and actions is growing though, according to environmental group Greenpeace, which acquired comments submitted to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) Working Group III—a team of scientists that assesses the measures needed for tackling the climate crisis. The scientists' work will influence the COP26 negotiations, observers say.

Greenpeace said the leaks show Australia, Saudi Arabia, and OPEC lobbied the IPCC to delete or weaken a conclusion that the world needs rapidly to phase out fossil fuels. Brazil and Argentina lobbied against criticism of meat consumption and its impact on pollution. The Australian government also asked to be deleted from a list of the world's major producers and consumers of coal on the grounds that it does not consume as much coal as other countries, Greenpeace said.

Agriculture is one of the main contributors to climate change, UNEP said 14 September in a report.

"This is an insight into how a small group of coal, oil, and meat-producing countries continue to put the profits of a few polluting industries before science and our planet's future," Greenpeace International Executive Director Jennifer Morgan said.

"As the global spotlight moves to Glasgow, other world leaders should be aware of how far these governments will go to sabotage our chances of keeping 1.5 degrees in sight," she said, adding: "The key test for world leaders is whether or not they agree to rapidly phase out fossil fuels, as the science warrants. History will not be kind to them if they fail—and we will be watching."

In parallel to the scientists assessing the measures needed to battle climate change, IPCC Working Group I deals with the physical science basis of climate change. The body of scientists issued a landmark report in August that UN Secretary General António Guterres famously called a "code red" warning for humanity.

One of the lead authors of the report, Joelle Gergis, in recent days said in an op-ed that "what concerns me is that we may have already pushed the planetary system past the point of no return. That we've unleashed a cascade of irreversible changes that have built such momentum that we can only watch as it unfolds."

Global security threat

The US intelligence community agrees and sees climate change as a threat to global security.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence on 21 October released "Climate Change and International Responses Increasing Challenges to U.S. National Security Through 2040," the first National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on climate change. An NIE reflects the consensus view of all the US intelligence agencies.

"We assess that climate change will increasingly exacerbate risks to US national security interests as the physical impacts increase and geopolitical tensions mount about how to respond to the challenge," the agencies said.

Geopolitical tensions are likely to grow as countries increasingly argue about how to accelerate the reductions in net GHG emissions that will be needed to meet the Paris Agreement goals, they said, adding that debate will center on who bears more responsibility to act and to pay—and how quickly—and countries will compete to control resources and dominate new technologies needed for the clean energy transition.

Those issues and the failed promises will not be lost on US Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen, who last week urged a "rapid establishment" of an International Monetary Fund "trust fund" to support economic transitions related to climate change, according to the Department of the Treasury.

The NIE added that scientific forecasts indicate that intensifying physical effects of climate change out to 2040 and beyond will be most acutely felt in developing countries, which the intelligence services assess are also the least able to adapt to such changes.

The NIE identifies 11 countries in the category of acute risk: Afghanistan, Colombia, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Iraq, Myanmar, North Korea, Nicaragua, and Pakistan. At least four of those nations signed the LMDC statement.

Posted 22 October 2021 by Keiron Greenhalgh, Editor, Climate & Sustainability Group, IHS Markit

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