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G20 agrees on key climate goals around global warming limits and coal financing, but lacks firm commitments

<i>Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images</i><br/>US President Joe Biden
Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images
US President Joe Biden

By Angela Dewan, CNN

The Group of 20’s final communiqué is expected to put an end date of 2021 on the financing of coal and include language committing to keep a limit of 1.5-degrees Celsius of global warming within reach, Tom Burke, co-founder of the E3G climate think tank, told CNN.

Burke, who has been briefed on the talks, said there would be language around “accelerating action” to achieve net-zero emissions by or around mid-century. That would include an acknowledgment that countries’ emissions reductions plans, known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), over this decade need to put them on track for net zero by 2050.

CNN has not seen the draft communiqué and details of any agreement are subject to change. The final communiqué is expected to be released later on Sunday.

Some countries’ current contributions do not put them on track to achieve their net-zero goals for the mid-century, several analyses have shown. Scientists say that the world must halve emissions over this decade to have any chance of hitting net zero by 2050 and containing global warming to around 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The G20 agreement is also expected to reaffirm the commitment for wealthy nations to transfer $100 billion a year in climate finance to the Global South, an existing agreement that has not been fulfilled, Burke said. A recent report from the COP26 presidency showed that the world would not meet this target until 2023. It will also agree to the mobilization of money from financial institutions, especially development banks, to fill the gap and fund a global green recovery.

It should also include a first-time acknowledgment of the “significant contribution” of methane emissions to climate change and the need for its reduction. The US and EU are leading the Global Methane Pledge, which more than 60 countries have signed up to, agreeing to cut methane emissions by 30% over this decade.

Methane emissions come largely from leaky fossil fuel infrastructure as well as livestock. Australia has said it will not sign onto the pledge. Other major methane emitters, including Indonesia, have signed on.

Several major producers or consumers of coal are showing resistance to climate language in the G20 draft communiqué around decarbonization, especially around the use of coal, Bas Eickhout, an European Union member of parliament, who is close to the talks told CNN.

Japan led a group of countries at the G-7 meeting in June to soften language around decarbonizing power systems, and the country — along with China, India, Australia and Russia — want to ensure the language in the current G20 communiqué does not include firm commitments, said Eickhout, who is a member of the EU Parliament’s delegation at the upcoming COP26 talks.

Eickhout said that Japan was insisting the communiqué says that power systems should “overwhelmingly” decarbonize by the 2030s, rather than making it a clear commitment. That has the backing of China and India, the world’s biggest coal consumers; Australia, the world’s biggest coal exporter by value; as well as Russia, another major exporter and consumer.

Russia was resisting putting an end date on the financing of coal projects abroad, a commitment the Chinese President Xi Jinping made in September at the United Nations General Assembly, Eickhout said, but added that Russia was showing some room for compromise.

At a news conference at the G20 in Rome, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that there were “quite a large group of nations that are — hold similar concerns about this” when asked about specific language related to coal.

“Well, those matters have been worked through, through the sherpas, and through the communiqué,” he said.

“So we’ll see what that lands in the next day or so.”

CNN has reached out to officials in China, Japan, Australia and Russia for comment.

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