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G20 leaders 'committed' to climate changes; Biden disappointed

By Allen Cone
G20 leaders 'committed' to climate changes; Biden disappointed
President Joe Biden attends a news conference after the G20 summit at La Nuvola Congress Center in Rome on Sunday. Photo by Ettore Ferrari/EPA-EFE

Oct. 31 (UPI) -- World leaders at the G20 summit in Rome agreed Sunday they are "committed" to a global average temperature of 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 Fahrenheit, above pre-industrial levels, and attempts to reach net-zero carbon emissions by around the middle century. They then headed to the United Nations COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland.

The two-day summit failed to reach few concrete commitments to achieve the target by 2050. The phrasing of taking "meaningful action" meets the stand by China and Saudi Arabia. And Russia said it won't meet the 2050 goal.

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President Biden blamed China and Russia for failing to agree to meaningful climate change initiatives.

"The disappointment relates to the fact that Russia and including not only Russia but China, basically didn't show up in terms of any commitments to deal with climate change," Biden said at a news conference. "And there's a reason why people should be disappointed in that, I found it disappointing myself, but what we did do, we passed a number of things here to end the subsidization of coal, we made commitments here, from across the board, all of us."

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United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres posted on Twitter: "While I welcome the #G20's recommitment to global solutions, I leave Rome with my hopes unfulfilled - but at least they are not buried. Onwards to #COP26 in Glasgow to keep the goal of 1.5 degrees alive and to implement promises on finance and adaptation for people & planet."

The communique said: "We recognize that the impacts of climate change at 1.5 degrees Celcius are much lower than at 2 degrees Celsius. "Keeping 1.5°C within reach will require meaningful and effective actions and commitment by all countries, taking into account different approaches, through the development of clear national pathways that align long-term ambition with short- and medium-term goals, and with international cooperation and support, including finance and technology, sustainable and responsible consumption and production as critical enablers, in the context of sustainable development.

The global average mean surface temperature for 2017 to 2021 is estimated to be 1.06 C to 1.26 C above pre-industrial 1850-1900 levels, according to United in Science 2021 report, published by U.N. agencies and scientific partners. The average temperature is 14.8 Celsius (58.64) in 2019.

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The leaders, including China, did agree to end overseas investment in coal this year and to take unspecific actions to limit domestic coal use.

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"We will increase our efforts to implement the commitment made in 2009 in Pittsburgh to phase out and rationalize over the medium term inefficient fossil fuel subsidies," the communique said.

That will include ending "the provision of international public finance for new unabated coal power generation abroad by the end of 2021."

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Six years ago in Paris, the climate deal called for capping global warming at well below 2 degrees Celsius, and ideally closer to 1.5. This means carbon emissions by 2030 and reaching net-zero by 2050. China, which is one of the world's largest emitters, has said it will meet net zero by 2060.

Russia does not intend to adhere to the 2050 deadline, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Sunday on the sidelines of the G20 summit.

"Why do you believe 2050 is some magical [date] that is not negotiable?" Lavrov asked. "If the media in Italy is convinced that the EU, the US, and the G7 have the ambition to do it by 2050... and if they're presenting this as the final truth, I'm afraid this is not respectful to other members of G20 and to all other members of the international community."

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The communique calls for countries to provide $100 billion in climate finance to help poor countries adapt to climate change.

France will devote $7 billion a year to help developing and underdeveloped countries achieve ecological transitions, French President Macron said Sunday.

"The decisions we make today will have a direct impact on the success of the Glasgow summit and ultimately on our ability to tackle the climate crisis," Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, who was chairman of the G20 summit, told the meeting. "We need to set long-term goals which are consistent with the objectives of the Paris agreement and make short-term changes to achieve them."

Draghi added COP26 "must signal the start of a permanent campaign. Every year we should ask ourselves if we have done enough to change course," while urging yearly efforts to change the course of global warming.

"Around this room, we have different views over how soon we must start to act and how fast we must change course," Draghi said. "Emerging economies resent how rich countries have polluted in the past and demand financial help to support them in this transition. They also wonder whether any commitments we take are indeed credible given our past failings."

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Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping were absent from the summit, citing COVID-19.

In other G20 developments, the European Union and the United States agreed to suspend steel and aluminum tariffs.

In a joint statement, the United States and EU agreed "to re-establish historical transatlantic trade flows" in steel and aluminum and to strengthen their partnership and address shared challenges in the steel and aluminum sector. As a part of that partnership, they intend to negotiate for the first time, a global arrangement to address carbon intensity and global overcapacity.

Biden said the agreement was a "testament to the power of our strong partnership and to what the U.S. can accomplish by working together with our friends."

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said it is a "big step forward in fighting climate change."

She noted: "Steel manufacturing is one of the highest carbon emission sources globally. And for steel consumption and trade to be sustainable, we must address the carbon intensity of the industry."

In 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump enacted the tariffs, claiming national security was affected by foreign imports. Europe responded with tariffs of its own on American products, including Kentucky bourbon and Harley Davidson motorcycles.

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"These arrangements will one, lift up U.S. aluminum and steel, which is among the greatest steel in the world -- that is somewhat prejudiced on my behalf -- incentivize emission reductions in one of the most carbon-intensive sectors of the global economy; restrict access to our markets for dirty steel from countries like China, and counter countries that dumped steel in our markets, hammering our workers," Biden said in a statement.

Also Sunday, Biden raised concerns over Turkey's possession of the Russian S-400 missile system in his meeting with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

"President Biden reaffirmed our defense partnership and Turkey's importance as a NATO Ally, but noted US concerns over Turkey's possession of the Russian S-400 missile system. He also emphasized the importance of strong democratic institutions, respect for human rights, and the rule of law for peace and prosperity," according to a readout from the White House.

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