Rich nations acknowledge climate threat, as Pope, Pacific Islands urge action

By Jan Strupczewski, Costas Pitas and Colin Packham

ROME (Reuters) – Leaders of the 20 richest countries will recognise the existential threat of climate change, a draft communique seen by Reuters shows, as Pope Francis on Friday said the COP26 summit https://www.reuters.com/business/cop must give future generations “concrete hope” by matching words with deeds.

The Group of 20, whose leaders gather on Saturday and Sunday in Rome before heading to Glasgow, Scotland, for the United Nations gathering, will pledge to take urgent steps to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).

While the landmark 2015 Paris agreement committed signatories to keeping global warming to “well below” 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels, and preferably to 1.5 degrees, carbon levels in the atmosphere have since grown.

“We commit to tackle the existential challenge of climate change,” the G20 draft, which might still be changed, said as people around the world prepared to take to the streets to demonstrate their desire for political action.

“We recognise that the impacts of climate change at 1.5 degrees are much lower than at 2 degrees and that immediate action must be taken to keep 1.5 degrees within reach.”

U.S. President Joe Biden will join his G20 counterparts after a setback on Thursday when the House of Representatives abandoned plans for a vote on a $1 trillion infrastructure bill, which would have represented the biggest investment in climate action in U.S. history.

Biden had hoped to reach an agreement before COP26, where he wants to present a message that the United States has resumed the fight against global warming.

Meanwhile, Pope Francis joined in the chorus calling for action at COP26, which runs from Oct. 31 to Nov. 12, saying the world’s political leaders must give future generations “concrete hope” that they are taking the radical steps needed.

The 84-year-old pope, who will not attend COP26 following surgery earlier this year, called for a “renewed sense of shared responsibility for our world” to spur action, saying that while talks would be tough, they offered an opportunity.

“These crises present us with the need to take decisions, radical decisions that are not always easy,” he said, adding: “…moments of difficulty like these also present opportunities, opportunities that we must not waste.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is hosting the event, this week said the outcome of COP26 hangs in the balance.

MATTER OF SURVIVAL

The statement from the G20, which represents an estimated 80% of global greenhouse gas emissions, said its members acknowledged “the key relevance of achieving global net zero greenhouse gas emissions or carbon neutrality by 2050”.

But the countries on the front line in the campaign against climate change as they struggle against rising sea levels want immediate action.

“We need concrete action now. We cannot wait until 2050, it is a matter of our survival,” Anote Tong, a former president of Kiribati and twice a nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize, said.

UN climate experts say a 2050 deadline is crucial to meet the 1.5 degree limit, but some of the world’s biggest polluters say they cannot reach it, with China, by far the largest carbon emitter, aiming for 2060.

In the G20 draft communique, the 2050 date appears in brackets, indicating it is still subject to negotiation.

Current commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions put the planet on track for an average 2.7C temperature rise this century, a UN report said on Tuesday.

Tong has predicted his country of 33 atolls and islands that stand just metres above sea level, will likely become uninhabitable in 30 to 60 years’ time and Pacific Island leaders said they would demand immediate action in Glasgow, with an initial focus on G20 leaders, on sweeping changes.

“A strong commitment and outcome from the G20 Rome Summit will pave the way for an ambitious and successful COP26,” Henry Puna, former Cook Islands prime minister and now secretary of the Pacific Islands Forum, said in a statement.

“We do not have the luxury of time and must join forces urgently and deliver the required ambition at COP26 to safeguard the future of all humankind, and our planet,” Puna added.

(Reporting by Jan Strupczewski, Costas Pitas, Colin Packham, Jeff Mason, Timothy Gardner, Trevor Hunnicutt and Richard Cowan; Writing by Alexander Smith; Editing by Barbara Lewis)

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