Reporting and analysis by Mathew Carr
July 31, 2023 — [Repost on Sept. 5, 2023 in case you missed it – plus bonus comment at the end.] A sentence in the “not agreed” section of the G20 climate document written by India, which holds the rotating presidency, stood out (from the document published late July — see below).
“Some G20 members emphasized the need for a global peaking of emissions no later than 2025, and reduction in emissions by 60% by 2035 over 2019 levels.“
Such a cut would take GHG emissions to 22 billion tons in 2035 from 2019’s record of 55 billion. I’m rounding and using these figures from OurWorldInData.com.
Bear with me on the numbers.
That’s cutting GHG by 3.3 billion per year in the 10 years to 2035. I’m assuming emissions in 2025 are still around 55 billion, which may be heroic, yet it’s meant to be the peak, at least according to “some”.
The truly frightening thing is this: that 3.3 billion ton p.a. pace is much faster that the world achieved in the year of the pandemic, 2020 – a cut of 2.2 billion tons.
That 2035 target by “some G20 members” seems a dramatic slowing in the pace of emission cuts after 2030, assuming the existing 2030 target is being respected.
According to the best climate/IPCC scientists grouped together by the UN:
“In model pathways with no or limited overshoot of 1.5°C, global net anthropogenic CO2 emissions decline by about 45% from 2010 levels by 2030 (40–60% interquartile range), reaching net zero around 2050 (2045–2055 interquartile range).“
That means emissions are meant to be at 28 billion tons by 2030 under that scenario, which we could round to 30 billion tons.
Unfortunately, the document from over the weekend didn’t seem to mention the earlier 2030 target — the 45% cut.
That’s sort of understandable because hitting that target would require emission cuts of more than 5 billion tons a year in 2026-2030. That’s double the pandemic pace and seems unrealistic (to say the least).
Given that stretch, it’s also understandable that cuts will revert to a “pandemic pace” in the 2031-2035 period of about 2 billion tons a year — a period when reductions will be much harder to find.
The writing is clearly on the wall for the “global stocktake” process being undertaken at the UN level for climate talks at the end of this year. That measuring of emissions, science and climate efforts is certain to show the world is way off track.
If ever there was a clear signal that the 1.5C target is at huge risk along with the 2030 limit, this new 2035 target is it, especially when combined with the G20’s reluctance to repeat, underpin or even mention the 45%-cut-by-2030-from-a-lower-base target.
Further note this intelligence from India: “Some G20 members stated the need for reaching net zero by 2040 by developed countries.”
This would be a tight timeframe but seriously doable with carbon trading. It would also narrow the climate injustice gap where rich countries have grabbed more than their fair share of the global carbon budget and more than they should of climate-killing fossil-fuel money.
See note below. The IPCC seems to be indicating 1.5C will be breached.
It’s a shame there isn’t more brutal honesty at the G20 level and a willingness to change market rules to encourage climate action. So-called leaders appear more interested in crypto currency than carbon credits.
Predatory delay may indeed be alive and well, despite the multiple Northern Hemisphere summer disasters, which have included wildfires, heatwaves, floods, and death.
Genuinely interested saving the climate?
I put the 2015 levels in these charts so you can see what happened since.
Here’s who’s benefitted from rising fossil-fuel output after they insincerely struck the Paris climate deal in 2015 to cut emissions:
Despite the data above, the Financial Times seems to think it knows the culprits — from Saturday’s edition:
Immediately after the weekend, the UK government announced it would issue new oil and gas licences alongside plans to boost carbon capture. This provides cover for others apparently undertaking predatory delay, including China and the USA:
Note: UK’s position might be a negotiation stance rather than a genuine plan.
India’s perspective might be even more credible than the FT’s, given its low emissions per capita and efforts at the G20:
These ‘non-agreed’ paragraphs were by India, holding the rotating presidency of the G20 (pars 63-66) and world’s most populous nation – my highlights bolded, questions in square brackets — the whole doc is worth reading, below.
63. Deliberations among G20 members covered issues related to mitigation including the findings of the latest IPCC report and global modelled pathways. Some G20 members emphasized the need for a global peaking of emissions no later than 2025, and reduction in emissions by 60% by 2035 over 2019 levels. Gaps in climate scenarios and models, depleting carbon budgets, historical, current and projected emissions were discussed, and need for actions for reducing non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions including methane by 2030 was emphasized. Investment requirements in clean energy technologies to reach net zero, as well as for a global transformation to a low-carbon economy were also discussed. Further discussions covered the issue of financing including developing countries’ financial needs to implement their NDCs, transformation of the financial systems, Article 2.1c, and Article 9 of the Paris Agreement regarding support from developed countries. Some G20 members also stated that both emissions reduction and (24) removals are important for achieving the temperature goal of the Paris Agreement. Some G20 members stated the need for reaching net zero by 2040 by developed countries.
64. Recalling the G20 Energy Ministers’ Meeting in Goa on 22 July 2023, the urgency of accelerating efforts towards clean energy transitions was recognized. The discussions covered a range of issues including, inter alia, the climate energy nexus, further accelerating the scaling up of renewable energy, tripling of renewable energy capacity, phasing down of unabated fossil fuels, doubling the global rate of improvement of energy efficiency, scaling up of already available low and zero emission technologies, carbon removal and abatement technologies, diversification of energy mix, net zero energy systems and access to low-cost financing for developing countries. The importance of leadership role of the G20, and progress in mitigation commitments in recent COP decisions was emphasized in the context of keeping 1.5 degrees alive. There exist divergent views among G20 members on the mandate of the Environment and Climate Sustainability Working Group to discuss energy issues in light of the existence of a separate Energy Transition Working Group. [CarrZee — WTF buckpassing here?] There also exist divergent views on the issues of energy transitions and how to reflect them in this document. G20 members expressed views reiterating their positions [CarrZee – rather than negotiating properly?].
65. Some members expressed the need for deliberation on the issue of disguised trade restrictions and Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) on the grounds of climate action, and several members were not in agreement regarding the same.
66. The war in Ukraine has further adversely impacted the global economy. There was a discussion on the issue. We reiterated our national positions as expressed in other fora, including the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly, which, in Resolution No. ES-11/1 dated 2 March 2022, as adopted by majority vote (141 votes for, 5 against, 35 abstentions, 12 absent) deplores in the strongest terms the aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine and demands its complete and unconditional withdrawal from the territory of Ukraine. Most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine and stressed it is causing immense human suffering and exacerbating existing fragilities in the global economy – constraining growth, increasing inflation, disrupting supply chains, heightening energy and food insecurity, and elevating financial stability risks. There were other views and different assessments of the situation and sanctions. Recognizing that the G20 is (25) not the forum to resolve security issues, we acknowledge that security issues can have significant consequences for the global economy
See these 2 notes
1 Russia recognizes the status of this document as Chair’s Summary due to inclusion of Paragraph 66, as well as the non-agreed paragraphs that do not reflect a variety of countries’ environment and climate policies and pathways of their implementation. Russia supports the consensus language. Russia has expressed its distinct view on the situation in Ukraine, geopolitical tensions, sanctions and certain topics of environment and climate agenda during the meeting.
2 China stated that the G20 ECSWG is not the right platform to address security issues and opposed the inclusion of the geopolitical related content.
Speaking to weekly magazine , in an interview first published on Saturday, Skea warned against laying too much value on the international community’s current nominal target of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared the pre-industrial era.
“We should not despair and fall into a state of shock” if global temperatures were to increase by this amount, he said.
In a separate discussion with German news agency DPA, Skea expanded on why.
“If you constantly communicate the message that we are all doomed to extinction, then that paralyzes people and prevents them from taking the necessary steps to get a grip on climate change,” he said.
I let Mr Skea have the final word in July, but I want to say this month (Sept. 5) that the message should not be that “we are doomed” but that we need big changes to market rules and those changes don’t need to hurt voters much, which clever policy. Voting people will get it if you explain it in stark terms…and autocrats should explain it too, to prevent riots.
(Tweaked headline to drop incorrect reference to last month. I meant a month ago.)