COP26 latest: Germany’s Merkel calls for the introduction of global carbon pricing

US president Joe Biden waves as he boards Air Force One
US president Joe Biden boards Air Force One after attending the G20 summit in Rome © Evan Vucci/AP

The G20 leaders pledged to quit financing coal power plants abroad ahead of the shift of the global agenda to Glasgow and also highlighted the divisions that will be on display in the next two weeks.

Was the G20 summit outcome a win for the climate? It depends who is asked. Late on Sunday, leaders were busy spinning their own interpretations of the communique (which you can read here).

Many praised the outcome, including, most predictably, Italian prime minister Mario Draghi, US president Joe Biden and the UK’s COP26 president Alok Sharma. But others said it didn’t do enough, including Canada’s Justin Trudeau and UN secretary-general António Guterres, who said his hopes for the G20 were left “unfulfilled”.

The key climate takeaways

Climate finance: The UK and Italy each boosted their pledges to finance the shift to green energy for developing countries that have not benefited from the fossil fuel boom. Mario Draghi said he would triple Italy’s contribution to $1.4bn a year and Boris Johnson said he would boost the UK’s contribution from £11.6bn to £12.6bn. This takes the total closer to the $100bn annual target set down in Copenhagen more than a decade ago.

Coal: Discussions over coal went down to the wire in Rome. The Italian presidency succeeded in getting an agreement to end international financing for unabated coal power plants. But nothing was agreed on domestic coal phase-outs despite long tortured negotiations on the issue, nor on setting a date for phasing out “inefficient fossil fuel subsidies”.

Carbon pricing: This was mentioned in the final communique text for the first time. While Draghi said it was a breakthrough, the term is only mentioned as one set of tools: “Such policy mix should include . . . a wide range of fiscal, market and regulatory mechanisms to support clean energy transitions, including, if appropriate, the use of carbon pricing mechanisms and incentives.”

Methane: The potent warming gas also merited mentioned for the first time, albeit in passing. A cut in methane emissions, both from natural gas leaks and agricultural sources, could have the biggest short-term impact in limiting global warming.

1.5C: The final communique refers to the Paris ideal target of 1.5C in warming since pre-industrial times, noting that the effects of climate change are less at 1.5C than at 2C. (The world has already warmed by an estimated 1.1C.)

“Keeping 1.5°C within reach will require meaningful and effective actions and commitment by all countries, taking into account different approaches,” the document said. This phrase is hailed as a victory by some, but also leaves a lot of room for interpretation.

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