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article imageG20 nations failing in climate commitments despite warnings

By Karen Graham     Nov 14, 2018 in Environment
Climate action is way off course in all but one of the world’s 20 biggest economies, according to a report that shows politicians are paying more attention to the fossil fuel industry than to advice from scientists.
In a report released Wednesday ahead of the G20 Summit in Argentina and COP24 in Poland, Climate Transparency's Brown to Green Report 2018, concludes that "more ambitious climate action is needed to keep global warming well below 2°C and to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels within this century, the main goals of the Paris climate accord."
The report does point out some positive developments since the international community came together in Paris in 2015 to map out a "solutions-oriented approach" to adopting environmentally-friendly practices - however, the report also features some very alarming takeaways.
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Mauro Pimentel, AFP/File
Among all the G20 nations, 15 reported a rise in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2017. The report found that 82 percent of the energy in these countries was still being provided by coal, oil, and gas, This was found to be due to a nearly 50 percent rise in subsidies over the last 10 years so that the fossil fuel industry could compete with cheaper renewable energy sources, reports The Guardian.
As co-author Jan Burck told the Guardian, "The G20 is not moving fast enough." In part, this is because "there is a huge fight by the fossil fuel industry against cheap renewables," he explained. "The old economy is well organized and they have put huge lobbying pressure on governments to spend tax money to subsidize the old world."
Those lobbying efforts have paid off, and continue to pay off as politicians OK the subsidies, using tax-payers money to keep the industry afloat. From 2007 to 2016, subsidies for coal, oil, and gas in G20 countries rose from $75 billion to $147 billion—which, as the report notes, "only includes tax exemptions and budgetary support towards production and consumption of fossil fuels, and does not consider other types of subsidies, such as state-owned enterprise investments and public financing."
In 2016, G20 nations spent $147 billion on subsidies - even though they pledged to phase them out more than 10 years ago.
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Where G20 countries stand
When comparing the different goals of the G20 countries regarding their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) - only India is on course to stay below the upper limit set by the Paris agreement of 2C, while the worst offenders – Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey – would take the world beyond 4C if all governments were to have similar levels of ambition for their targets.
China, the world’s biggest GHG emitter, appeared to stabilize its releases of carbon for a couple of years by reducing dependency on coal, however, that positive trend slipped last year. Indonesia, Brazil, and Argentina promised to cut deforestation but the destruction rate of forests shows no sign of reversing.
Given their current policies, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, South Korea, Turkey, and the United States are likely to miss their NDC targets. The UK has made tremendous progress - with a 7.7 percent decline in the use of fossil fuels between 2012 and 2015. But the UK has to be careful looking ahead because of cuts in support of feed-in tariffs, energy efficiency, and zero-carbon homes.
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Global Climate Action Summit
Based on the latest findings from the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that even "the difference in impacts between warming of 1.5°C and 2°C would be substantial, damaging communities, economies, and ecosystems across the world," the report declares that "collectively, the G20 needs to roughly halve emissions in 2030 to meet the Paris goals, but adequate long-term strategies to do so are still lacking."
Noting the inadequacy of the NDC targets for Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, pointing out they may not be robust enough, the report says the least ambitious approach to meeting climate commitments as outlined in the 2015 Paris Agreement goes to Donald Trump's administration.
The United States stands alone
After Trump vowed to pull out of the Paris Agreement, war-torn Syria joined the pact, leaving the United States the only nation on Earth opposed to the international climate accord.
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As the U.S. profile (pdf) notes, under the current administration, "no national plan to tackle climate change exists." Thus, citing the withdrawal from the Paris accord and the dismantling of the Obama-era Clean Power Plan as particularly egregious moves, "experts rate both its national and international climate policy performance as very low."
Christiana Figueres, former executive secretary of the UN framework convention on climate change, said: “Global emissions need to peak in 2020. The Brown-to-Green report provides us with an independent stock-take on where we stand now. This is valuable information for countries when they declare their contribution in 2020.”
More about G20 nations, Industrialized nations, climate goals, fossil fuel industry, old economy
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