Developing countries call on the group of advanced economies of the G20 to urgently propose stricter targets for greenhouse gas emissions and financial assistance, to make the UN climate summit Cop26 this month a success.
Simon Stiell, Minister of Climate and Environment of Grenada, said: “All eyes are now on the G20. They must intensify. There is a significant gap between what has been promised [on cutting emissions] and what is needed – the big question is how to deal with this gap. “
He added: “The G20 is responsible for 80% of global emissions. If they really want to fix this [gap], then between them they can. It really is that simple. They have the know-how to manage it, they have the resources and they have the responsibility.
Tina Stege, climate envoy for the Republic of the Marshall Islands, said: “We are laser focused on the G20. They have the means to make a difference this decade. We all have a role to play, but there is no doubt that the key really lies in the G20. “
Neither would single out any country, but the G20 includes some of the most carbon-emitting economies in the world, including China’s biggest emitter – which has yet to come up with a national reduction plan. emissions – and major fossil fuel producers Australia, Russia and Saudi Arabia, which has shown little sign of heeding calls for climate action.
Other G20 members include the UK, US, several EU member states, Japan, and major emerging economies such as India, Korea, and Turkey.
The G20 will meet later this month in Italy, just before the start of Cop26 in Glasgow on October 31.
Stiell said the long-term goals to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 or 2060, which many G20 countries have put in place or are considering, were not enough, as emissions reductions over the course of the next decade were also crucial. “Net zero by 2050 is wonderful, but then we will be long gone – the low lying islands will be underwater. Hurricanes will have swept us away, ”he said.
Many G20 countries’ current targets for emission reductions over the next decade were inadequate, Stiell said. China has yet to submit its updated national emissions plan, known as the Nationally Determined Contribution or NDC, while Australia, Brazil and Japan have plans considered inadequate, and the major Oil producers like Russia and Saudi Arabia continue to increase their production of fossil fuels. .
The Marshall Islands and Grenada are members of the High ambition coalition (HAC), a UN talks group comprising many of the poorest and most vulnerable developing countries, alongside some of the richest governments in the world including the EU, UK, Canada and New Zealand.
Faustin Munyazikwiye, chief negotiator for Rwanda, who is also a member of the HAC, said that in addition to greater G20 ambition to reduce emissions, more funding from rich countries would be crucial to help countries the most vulnerable to face the impacts of extreme weather that they were already seeing.
He told the Observer: “The Cop26 comes at a crucial moment for our planet – we are at a crossroads. The sense of urgency in climate-vulnerable countries like Rwanda is slowly creeping into the rest of the world. We must seize this opportunity to capitalize on this emerging global consensus and secure ambitious commitments to reduce emissions and stay on track to achieve the 1.5C target.
He added: “Climate finance is the main challenge and the most important aspect of our negotiating strategy. [It is] necessary to ensure that countries vulnerable to climate change are adequately equipped to tackle climate change. In Rwanda, for example, we calculate that we need at least $ 11 billion in investment. Although we are committed to funding part of these investments at the national level, collaboration with international partners is essential. “
Despite the inadequacy of current commitments, Stiell told the Observer there was “a sense of cautious optimism” ahead of the Cop26 talks. The UK, as host and chair, set the main goal for Cop26 to “keep 1.5C alive”.
Under the 2015 Paris climate agreement, countries are required to keep global temperature rise “well below” 2 ° C above pre-industrial levels, while “continuing their efforts. »To limit global heating to 1.5 ° C.
However, new scientific data published in the six years since Paris has shown that exceeding the 1.5 ° C threshold would cause sea level to rise and increase storm surges, threatening the lower islands with flooding and causing an increase in extreme weather conditions globally, with devastating effects.
Stege said some of the predicted impacts of sea level rise were already being felt in the Marshall Islands, where an airport runway was recently overtaken by waves during a storm surge caused when a “royal tide” coincided with a storm. There has also been a wave of dengue fever cases on the islands, caused by rising temperatures and more frequent droughts.
The UK, as host of Cop26, will need to secure the support of developing and developed countries for any deal, as the UN negotiating process requires consensus.