G20 in danger of failing to meet Paris Agreement targets

On the day the UK announced its roadmap to move to a net-zero economy a new report has warned the world’s biggest economies are set to fall short of stated global warming targets.

Climate Transparency has issued its Climate Transparency Report 2020 which concluded more is needed by the G20 to halt climate change.

It warned that while there have been lessons learned in the five years since the Paris Agreement there is still more the needs to be done and urgent action has to be taken by global governments.

“In a time of uncertainty, the G20 can harness the opportunities of a green recovery to set course for a more resilient and sustainable future,” it said. “In the five years since the adoption of the Paris Agreement, there have been many lessons – some hard and some hopeful. G20 members should heed these lessons as they make decisions that will shape our common future.”

It added COVID has added to the need for the world to look to a green recovery from the pandemic.

“By the end of October 2020, 1.3 million lives have been lost to COVID-19,” said the report. “This number is still growing and would be much larger if the collateral effects of the pandemic were included. G20 GDP is projected to decrease by around 4% in 2020, with devastating effects on many levels, exacerbating poverty, inequality, and unemployment.

“The decline in global GDP in 2020 could lead to an increase of 25 million people being unemployed, 100 million additional people living in poverty, and the number of people facing acute food insecurity doubling to 265 million.”

The report stated: “The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have been compounded by other vulnerabilities, including exposure and capacity to respond to extreme climate and weather events such as record-breaking floods, heatwaves, and wildfires in 2020, as well as political and economic turbulence. Inequalities increase risks and impacts G20 countries have responded by rolling out recovery packages, including fiscal stimulus measures that are unprecedented in terms of scale and speed.”

The report added as of the middle of October 2020, announced economic stimulus packages across the G20 totalled $12.1 trillion, but there is an extreme divide in resources between countries. Advanced economies have had more resources to respond to the crisis, evident in comparing per capita stimulus spending, which range from approximately $17,200 per capita in Japan to $6,500 in South Korea.

“By comparison, emerging economies range from around $1,000 per capita in Brazil to less than $200 in Indonesia,” the report stated. “Differences in vulnerability and resources to respond between G20 countries (and the rest of the world) underscores the need for greater international cooperation and support. It is in the interest of all countries to contribute to a robust and sustainable global recovery and to avoid global divergence.”

It warned future resilience requires strong G20 leadership and “immediate action on the climate crisis”.

The report said the 2015 Paris Agreement set clear goals to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change. Achieving the mitigation goal of limiting the global temperature increase to 1.5°C would reduce the risks and impacts of climate change and the costs of adaptation.

“To do so, global CO2 emissions need to decrease by 45% by 2030 and reach net-zero by 2050,” it explained. “Deeper reductions are required among the biggest emitters and more advanced economies. G20 energy-related CO2 emissions are projected to decrease by 7.5% in 2020.

“This reduction appears to be temporary, mainly the result of the impacts of and responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Without transformational climate action by countries, emissions growth will rebound and the goals of the Paris Agreement will not be reached.”

There is growing recognition that a fundamental, structural shift is required, the reported added. The race to net-zero emissions among the G20 began in earnest between 2019 and 2020.

It cautioned that political commitments need to make their way into enhanced NDC targets and long-term strategies – which are due to be updated in 2020 – and recovery packages.

“Yet most current COVID-19 recovery packages are moving in the opposite direction,” it revealed. “Approximately 30% of stimulus spending is going into environmentally-intensive sectors.

“Analysis of recovery packages in these sectors reveals that, by and large, G20 members are supporting emissions-intensive and environmentally-damaging industries with little consideration overall to the climate or improving resilience.”

The report found despite some positive developments, fossil fuels still accounted for 81.5% of primary energy supply in 2019, as increases in oil (+1%) and gas (+3%) consumption offset the decrease in coal consumption. Many G20 countries are lacking effective targets and policies in key sectors. Progress in the transport, building, and industry sectors is lagging and many G20 members are still losing tree cover, diminishing critical carbon sinks.

“G20 climate action can reinforce economic recovery and bring substantial co-benefits to support the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), amplifying the positive outcomes of stimulus spending in the long-term,” the report added. “Co-benefits of climate action include improvements to health and wellbeing, jobs and economic value creation, biodiversity and environmental resilience, financial security and fiscal benefits, and enhanced energy access and security.

“Ultimately, greening COVID-19 recovery responses offers a unique opportunity for G20 countries to accelerate just, low carbon transitions and to deliver on Paris Agreement goals – reducing vulnerability, limiting global warming, and bringing our economies in line with sustainable development.”