The G20 pledged on Wednesday to strive to limit global warming to 1.5C in a move that was welcomed by negotiators at the UN COP27 climate summit in Egypt where the key threshold has become a flashpoint.
The group of leading nations — including the biggest emitters, the US and China, as well as Saudi Arabia, the UK and Germany — acknowledged the effects of climate change would be “much lower at a temperature increase of 1.5C compared with 2C”, which was the less ambitious goal in the Paris agreement.
“We resolve to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5C,” the group said in the communique. This would require “meaningful and effective actions and commitment by all countries”.
“The resolve to try and limit the temperature increase to 1.5C is urgent,” said the communique, after two days of talks in Bali.
Whether a reference to the most ambitious temperature goal should be included in a final COP27 agreement has become a significant point of contention, as some unidentified countries have resisted its inclusion.
Germany’s climate envoy, Jennifer Morgan, said the inclusion of 1.5C in the G20 communique “sent an important signal — to the ministers and negotiators here at COP27 and to the whole world”.
“The G20 stand by the Glasgow climate pact and there cannot be any rollback on this here in Sharm el-Sheikh,” Morgan said.
US climate envoy John Kerry said at a weekend briefing that a “very few” parties had pushed to avoid the inclusion of 1.5C in a final COP27 text, though added that he believed the COP27 Egyptian presidency would not want its legacy to be associated with a weakening of the critical climate goal.
Extreme weather events are expected to become more common and intense with every fraction of a degree of warming, and the world has already warmed by at least 1.1C compared with the pre-industrial era, scientists have concluded.
The world’s top climate researchers said last year that in a best-case scenario that involved rapid cuts to emissions, warming could exceed 1.5C by 2060 but could see the planet cool again to 1.4C by 2100 if all the recommended action was taken.
The leading UN environmental body most recently forecast the world was otherwise on track for a temperature rise of between 2.4C and 2.6C by 2100, based on the current “woefully inadequate” country pledges.
One of the key objectives of the UN COP26 summit in Glasgow a year ago was to “keep 1.5C alive”.
However, achieving the goal requires tougher and faster global action than limiting warming to 2C, and this year’s summit has been marked by fears about backsliding on previous national climate commitments.
Laurence Tubiana, a key architect of the Paris Agreement, said an “ambitious G20 is setting the tone for COP.”
Climate change policy analysts agreed that it would have an effect on the negotiations in Egypt. Gareth Redmond-King, international lead at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit think-tank, said the G20 commitment was “critical, given they represent 75 per cent of global annual emissions”.
The G20 statement echoes the G7 meeting pledge earlier this year when leaders acknowledged the need to urgently cut emissions “in order to limit global warming to 1.5C”.
The leaders in Bali also encouraged negotiators at COP27 to “make progress on loss and damage”, which refers to financial support for developing countries to cope with climate-related devastation, such as floods and droughts.
The communique also included commitments to accelerate the “phase down of unabated coal power” and to phase out “inefficient fossil fuel subsidies” in the medium term, in line with the COP26 Glasgow pact.
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