G20 emissions pledges are far too low

Analysts say cuts in emissions will need to increase sixfold if the powerful G20 nations are to meet the climate challenge on reducing greenhouse gases.

The promises made by the G20 group of the world’s leading economies to meet the goals reached in last December’s Paris Agreement on emissions reduction are nowhere near adequate, according to new analysis by a global consortium.

In a comprehensive assessment, they identify the G20 climate challenge: it needs by 2030 to reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases by six times more than it has pledged so far.

It needs also to move more vigorously to a green, low-carbon economy. And if the G20 goes ahead with its plans for new coal-fuelled power plants, that will make it “virtually impossible” to keep global warming below 2°C, the initial target agreed at the Paris climate conference.

The analysts’ report is released in Beijing today ahead of the G20 summit in the Chinese city of Hangzhou on 4 and 5 September.

Our report shows that while global emissions growth may be coming to an end, there is not yet the necessary dynamic to transform the ‘brown’ fossil-fuel based economy into the ‘green’.

Alvaro Umaña, co-chair, Climate Transparency

Shared mission

It has been produced by Climate Transparency, which describes itself as “an open global consortium with a shared mission to stimulate a ‘race to the top’ in climate action through enhanced transparency”.

Contributors include NewClimate Institute, whose flagship projects include Climate Action Tracker, Germanwatch, which publishes an annual Global Climate Risk Index, the Overseas Development Institute, the Humboldt-Viadrina Governance Platform, and a range of other international experts.

Climate change and green finance are high on this year’s G20 agenda, so the assessment examines a range of indicators − including investment attractiveness, renewable energy investment, climate policy, the carbon intensity of the energy and electricity sectors of the G20 economies, fossil fuel subsidies, and climate finance.

The G20 produces 75 per cent of global emissions, and its energy-related greenhouse gas emissions rose by 56 per cent from 1990-2013. This growth has now stalled, but, as the authors put it, “there is still more brown than green on the Climate Transparency G20 scorecard”, although they concede that it is “beginning to head in the right direction”.

Alvaro Umaña, Costa Rica’s former environment and energy minister, is co-chair of Climate Transparency. He says: “The G20 has proven that it can be nimble, and take action on economic issues, so we are looking to these countries to do the same for the climate.

“Our report shows that while global emissions growth may be coming to an end, there is not yet the necessary dynamic to transform the ‘brown’ fossil-fuel based economy into the ‘green’.

“There remains a tremendous opportunity for the G20 to make this transition and provide the world with enough energy, create affordable energy access for the poorest people, and to stimulate economies.”

The authors say coal is the main problem with the carbon intensity of the G20’s energy sector overall, because of the large number of planned new coal-fired power plants. These would nearly double the bloc’s coal capacity, making it almost impossible for the world to keep warming even to 2˚C, let alone to 1.5˚C as set out in the Paris Agreement.

“If G20 countries were to rid themselves of their reliance on coal, this would significantly impact their ability to both increase their climate pledges and get their emissions trajectories on a below 2˚C pathway,” said Niklas Höhne, a founding partner of NewClimate Institute and special professor of mitigation of greenhouse gases at Wageningen University, Netherlands.

Good signal

China, India, France, Germany, the US and the UK are rated highest in terms of investment attractiveness in renewable energy, although the ratings of both France and Germany risk dropping.

Jan Burck, team leader on German and EU low-carbon policy at Germanwatch, says: “That China and India are rated the highest is a good signal – these are the economies where the transition will have the biggest impact on the global climate. France’s reliance on nuclear is stifling the emergence of wind and solar, and Germany’s proposed cap on renewable energy is worrying.”

Although renewable energy has increased by 18 per cent since 2008, a 2°C trajectory means annual G20 country investment in the power sector alone will have to roughly double by 2035 from its 2000-2013 levels.

The report also says fossil fuel subsidies remain high – with subsidies from the group’s developed countries all being far greater than the money they have committed to climate finance.

Peter Eigen, co-chair of Climate Transparency, says: “Our assessment shows China is taking more action than many countries. Climate leadership from China at the G20 Summit could help set the world on the right path to a future safe from the worst ravages of climate change.”

This story was published with permission from Climate News Network.

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