G20 in final push to reach deal on climate at Rome summit

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The leaders of the world’s richest economies will spend Sunday trying to reach a meaningful deal on preventing climate change.

The G20 is hoping to make progress ahead of the COP26 summit in Glasgow, which begins on Sunday.

However, they have yet to announce any firm new commitments to reduce carbon emissions in the coming years.

The G20 group, made up of 19 countries and the European Union, accounts for 80% of the world’s emissions.

The first day of the summit, being held in Rome, Italy, focused on Covid and the economy, with an agreement being reached on a global tax rate which will see the profits of large businesses taxed at least 15%.

It follows concern that multinational companies are re-routing their profits through low tax jurisdictions.

Sunday is dedicated to discussions on climate, with Britain’s Prince Charles addressing the group.

He urged the leaders to take action “for the sake of humanity”, but acknowledged with the costs for new infrastructure likely to spiral into “trillions of dollars” it needed both government and the private sector to work in tandem.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi – who is hosting the event – went on to call on his colleagues to accelerate phasing coal and investing in renewable energy, while outlining long term goals.

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However, reaching an agreement on how best to cut carbon emissions – and to stop climate change getting worse – is proving difficult.

After years of talking, the planet is now at least 1.1C hotter than the pre-industrial level. Climate scientist want warming restricted to 1.5C to prevent climate catastrophe.

There were already concerns reaching a deal would not be easy, as among the leaders not appearing in person is China’s President Xi Jinping. China is the world’s biggest polluter – although, per person, its emissions are about half those of the US.

Activists are disappointed with what is currently being discussed. Reuters news agency suggested that the agreement in latest draft communiqué did not toughen the language used in previous versions and has even been softened in parts.

Oscar Soria, of the activist network Avaaz, told the agency there was “little sense of urgency” coming from the group, adding: “There is no more time for vague wish-lists, we need concrete commitments and action.”

However, others have been keen to paint the G20 as a stepping stone to COP26, which will see delegates from about 200 countries gather to discuss cutting carbon emissions.

A US official told reporters the G20 was about “helping build momentum” before the leaders headed to Glasgow later on Sunday, while France’s President Emmanuel Macron told newspaper Journal du Dimanche that “nothing is ever written before a COP”.

“Let’s not forget that in Paris, in 2015, nothing was decided in advance,” he told the weekly.

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