G20 Summit in Rome: “Missed Opportunity” or “Great Success”?

Status: 10/31/2021 5:53 p.m.

Climate protectors are deeply disappointed, summit host Draghi is “proud”: For the first time, the G20 have committed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. In fact, however, many agreements remain vague.

No specific date for CO2 neutrality, no clear time for the coal phase-out. Instead – at least that’s how the critics see it – generalities and vague promises. The host of the summit, Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi, made a visible effort at the final press conference to spread optimism in the face of widespread criticism.

“The G20 have for the first time committed to keeping global warming at 1.5 degrees. We are proud of this result,” said Draghi – but added that this could only be the beginning. It was agreed to step up efforts. Among other things, the G20 wanted to provide the poorest countries with 100 billion euros for the climate-friendly restructuring of their economies.

Draghi emphasized that after a “bad time” the G20 could now work together again directly. It is clear to all participants that the “epochal challenges” can only be mastered together. Therefore, the meeting was a “summit of success”.

Disagreement to the end

In fact, the 20 major economic powers in Rome – probably out of consideration for China and Russia – could not agree on an ambitious declaration on climate protection. There is still no clear target date for the important carbon dioxide neutrality and the phase-out from coal-fired power generation. While the year 2050 should be set for “net zero emissions of greenhouse gases or carbon dioxide neutrality” at the beginning, the target is only generally from “up to or around the middle of the century”. This means that only as much emissions are emitted as can be bound.

The commitment to phase out investments in coal-fired power plants was also not very specific. If that originally happened “in the 2030s”, the year was missing in the final communiqué. It is now being envisaged “as soon as possible”. This could mean that consideration has again been given to China or India, which rely heavily on coal for their electricity generation and are difficult to meet demand.

However, the G20 declared that it would no longer use public funds to support the construction of coal-fired power plants abroad by the end of this year. Even a reference to the “alarming reports” of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which had warned of the dangers of global warming, was weakened in the final text with “recent reports”. An initial formulation to aim for a “largely carbon dioxide-free power supply” in the 2030s is also missing. Rather, there is a general desire to expand clean energies.

Criticism of the results

Climate activists and development organizations are disappointed with the vague summit results. The meeting was a “summit of missed opportunities”, according to Fiona Uellendahl from “World Vision”. The G20 had “pinched” before making important decisions, for example in terms of vaccination fairness or climate change. While booster vaccinations are already being discussed in Germany, a large proportion of the people in poor countries have not even been vaccinated.

There was also harsh criticism of the results in terms of climate protection: “The G20 summit should have been a major step forward for the UN world climate conference COP26 in Glasgow,” said climate expert Jan Kowalzig from the development organization Oxfam. “That didn’t work.” The G20 had failed to recognize the inadequacy of their self-commitments under the Paris Agreement and to commit themselves to “urgently needed, immediate improvement”.

“Even Germany and the European Union are still not ready to do their fair share,” said Kowalzig. The world is currently heading for catastrophic warming of 2.7 degrees, although a maximum of 1.5 degrees is considered the critical threshold.


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