Draghi Wants to Believe in G-20 Climate Gains, Yet They’re Tiny
(Bloomberg) -- Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said his Group of 20 summit had created “pretty solid foundations” for the global effort to tackle climate change. The man who has to build on them wasn’t so sure.
Italian diplomats had been looking to secure firmer commitments from developing countries and some of the world’s biggest emitters on their plans to eliminate CO2, and particularly on phasing out coal. Instead, Draghi was left with a diluted final communique that largely repeated existing targets and broke limited new ground.
Draghi said it would have been counterproductive to point the finger at developing countries that want to move slower in cutting their emissions and that the rich countries need to listen to their concerns.
“That’s what Italy has done over the last two days in our conversations with India, with Russia, with China and so on,” he said as the talks wrapped up. “It seems to have made a difference, at least that’s what I wish to think.”
The 74-year-old former central banker pointed to new language on coal and methane and the G-20’s first reference to carbon pricing. In another part of the futuristic conference center, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who will take up the baton as host of the UN climate summit in Glasgow, said the commitments were “a drop in the ocean” compared with what is needed. He said the G-20 had only “inched forwards,” even as he lauded Draghi’s handling of the talks.
Other leaders echoed that public praise. Joe Biden said Draghi had done “one heck of a job,” the French said it was better than the G-7 that Johnson hosted in June and Germany’s Angela Merkel said that Draghi had skilfully used Rome’s unique heritage to impress upon the delegates their own responsibilities.
“Maybe also people will look back on our times one day and see that something decent was achieved,” she said. “I want to thank Mario Draghi.”
Behind the scenes though, there were rumbles of discontent at some aspects of the way the Italians had handled the talks. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov even went public with his frustrations.
Lavrov said that the Italians should have let his delegation see a draft of the communique earlier and suggested that the inner circle of wealthier G-7 nations had tried to steamroller other countries into accepting a deadline for eliminating emissions.
“The G-7 negotiated the draft declaration first and then decided to circulate it,” Lavrov told reporters in Rome. “That’s how the original declaration contained 2050 as a date, but it is not very polite to use this negotiating process.”
The 2050 target for reaching net-zero emissions globally was dropped in favor of a vaguer reference to reach climate neutrality “by or around mid-century.”
Even if the Italians’ handling of the situation had been impeccable, it’s unlikely they’d have managed to achieve more, diplomats said. But some involved in the process said the negotiations were hampered by poor organization, with last-minute scheduling and the sherpas, the officials handling most of the negotiations, at times unaware when their leaders were due to be talking.
Indeed, diplomats from both the G-7 and the developing world said that the way the Italian team had handled the summit preparations had also contributed to the tensions.
Those diplomats said that the Italian team was slow to realize how much work would be required to win round countries like China and Russia on climate issues and made mistakes in the way they approach those topics, stirring up resentment unnecessarily.
As leaders arrived in Rome, the Italian team was worried that it would become a full-blown debacle, one person said.
Instead, Draghi managed to at least reach consensus on a communique, even if it meant giving up much of the progress he’d been aiming to secure. Failure to keep the G-20 united would have been a far big setback for international climate efforts as Johnson’s climate conference gets under way in Glasgow.
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