The show moves from Rome to Glasgow

It is no coincidence that as COP26 host, the UK has been partnering with the Government of Italy during the run-up to this month’s UN climate conference. The G20 meeting that took place in Rome last weekend was the culmination of a year of wide-ranging discussions between the world’s largest economies and, by the same token, some of the largest greenhouse gas emitters. Observers were hoping that the Rome declaration would catalyse momentum for the upcoming negotiations in Glasgow.

  • So what emerged from the Rome meeting? According to the official G20 declaration“Responding to the call of the scientific community, noting with concern the recent reports of the IPCC and mindful of our leadership role, we commit to tackle the critical and urgent threat of climate change and to work collectively to achieve a successful UNFCCC COP26 in Glasgow.”
  • “Keeping 1.5oC within reach will require meaningful and effective actions by all countries… through the development of clear national pathways that align long term-ambition with short- and medium-term goals…”
  • “…we commit… to take further action this decade and to formulate, implement, update and enhance where necessary our 2030 NDCs…”
  • “we will increase our efforts the commitment made in 2009… to phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies”
  • “we will put an end to the provision of international public finance for unabated coal power generation abroad by the end of 2021”

This all sounds well and good, but if you consider what a “successful” COP26 implies, it becomes clear that the G20 position falls well short of what will be needed.

Coal-fired generation, particularly in Asia, does not appear to be going away any time soon. Some of the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitters have yet to commit to a long-term national trajectory towards net zero emissions. And among those that have done so, there appears to be some reluctance to ensure that their trajectory to 2030 is consistent with it. It will be interesting to see whether the leaders’ statements over the next two days set a more positive tone ahead of the closed-session horse-trading that commences on Wednesday.