G20 leaders agree to improve greenhouse gas plans ahead of 2030

World leaders have pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Credit: PA

There has been a notable breakthrough on climate change at a meeting of the world's biggest economies - the G20 summit in Rome - with a statement in the communiqué which pledges they will take further action to formulate, implement, update and enhance commitments to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases “ahead” of 2030.

According to an official, this sets up the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow “to deliver a short term acceleration [in greenhouse gas emissions] through the negotiations”.

Several officials tell me that for them this is a much better G20 outcome than they expected even yesterday.

Which may tell you something about the poverty of ambition of world leaders when it comes to climate change.

And it gives a following wind to the idea I discussed yesterday that this COP may usher in a process for nationally determined contributions (NDCs) to reduce production of methane and CO2 being negotiated every two or three years rather than every five, as at present.

There is also relief from these officials that the whole of the G20 has endorsed a target for “net zero” - when the amount of greenhouse gases produced are the same as those absorbed from the atmosphere - no net emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere - from around the middle of the century, and that no G20 member will finance new coal power stations outside their own country.

World leaders at Rome’s Trevi fountain Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP

Climate campaigners will see these promises as the unambiguous minimum needed.

But one official involved in the talks says last week “a good number of G20 members” were refusing to agree even these limited climate-protecting measures, including on international coal finance.

And another said: “this delivers a lot more than we had thought even 24 hours ago”.

The COP26 climate conference - what you need to know

What is COP26? When and where will it be?

Each year, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meets at what is called the Conference of the Parties (abbreviated as COP) to discuss the world's progress on climate change and how to tackle it.

COP26 is the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties summit which will be held in Glasgow from 31 October to 12 November.

Who is going?

Leaders of the 197 countries that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – a treaty that came into force in 1994 - are invited to the summit.

These are some of the world leaders that will be attending COP26:

  • US President Joe Biden, climate envoy John Kerry, climate adviser and former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy, and 10 other US cabinet officials.

  • Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison. In the days leading up to COP26, Mr Morrison committed Australia to a target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Prince Charles, Prince William, the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duchess of Cambridge are also attending. The Queen has withdrawn from visiting after being advised by her doctors to rest - she will address the conference virtually instead.

China's President Xi Jinping, Russia's President Vladimir Putin, and President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil are among the leaders that have decided not to travel to Glasgow.

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What is it hoping to achieve?

1. Achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and limiting global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels - Countries are being encouraged to set ambitious 2030 emissions targets. They are also encouraged to accelerate the phase-out of coal, clamp down on deforestation, speed up the switch to electric vehicles and encourage investment in renewables.

2. Protect natural habitats and communities from climate change disasters

3. Finances for a greener future - In 2009, developed countries were asked to keep to their promises to contribute at least $100 billion (£72.5 billion) per year by 2020 to protect the planet. In 2015, it was agreed that the goal would be extended to 2025.

However, new analysis shows the goal is unlikely to have been met last year and is on track to fall short in 2021 and 2022.

4. Getting all countries and organisations to work together to tackle the climate crisis

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