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Climate crisis: G20 countries dragging heels on COP26 1.5C promise, analysis warns

Publishing new climate action plans within the year was hailed as a key success of COP26, but major economies are not following through, analysis concludes.

Image:British Prime Minister Boris Johnson gives the "1.5 sign" at COP26 in Glasgow. Pic: AP
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A pledge made at COP26, hailed as a key achievement of the climate summit for "keeping 1.5C alive', is barely being delivered by any of the major economies in the G20, according to new analysis.

At the Glasgow climate talks countries promised to review their 2030 climate action plans before the next yearly summit, in the hopes of keeping alive the chances of limiting warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

Countries whose plans - known as "nationally determined contributions" or "NDCs" - were not in line with the 1.5C target are supposed to submit more ambitious versions, and others are supposed to see how else they can ramp up action.

At the half-way point to COP27, none of the G20 countries that needed to has yet come up with a more ambitious pledge, nor have COP27 or COP28 hosts, Egypt and the UAE, according to analysis by think tanks.

Brazil is the only country that has published a new 2030 NDC since COP26, but the think tanks say it is actually "worse" than the previous because the country has shifted the baseline.

The group of 20 countries have a disproportionate impact on the world's climate, as they responsible for around 80% of global emissions.

Short term action, like 2030 targets, on the climate crisis matter because every greenhouse gas emitted contributes to warming, so quick action means less warming.

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This morning COP26 President Alok Sharma told Bloomberg TV: "The G20 matter. They really matter as part of this discussion."

The Conservative MP was responding to a question about Australia's new President Anthony Albanese, elected over the weekend partly on a mandate to tackle climate change in a country that had acted somewhat slowly.

"Of course I welcome the fact that we're going to have more countries coming forward with commitments," Mr Sharma added. He said forums such as the G7, G20 and UN General Assembly, all happening before COP27, must put pressure on countries to speed up their climate action.

The COP26 spokesperson told Sky News it is "vital the commitments made are turned into action, especially by the G20 countries".

They said they recognised the "extraordinary circumstances we find ourselves in which shows the integral link between climate change, energy security and the vulnerability caused by our dependence on fossil fuels."

Image:COP26 delegates signal support for "keeping 1.5 alive"

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has shifted the geopolitical context, with many nations seeking to accelerate their shift to clean energy in order to get off Russian fossil fuels to stop money flowing to the Kremlin.

Mr Sharma, speaking on Bloomberg at the World Economic Forum in Davos, said we "cannot allow" the war in Ukraine to create a "setback in terms of commitments on climate".

"What it should be doing is making us redouble our efforts to deliver on the commitments we've made," he said.

Gareth Redmond-King from climate think tank ECIU, which co-published the analysis with E3G, called it a "as clear a to-do list as could be for G20 leaders and upcoming COP presidents," as the world "confronts a plethora of interconnected crises".

Their report suggests Australia, Brazil, Indonesia and Mexico's last versions of 2030 NDCs actually did nothing to limit their emissions.

China, Russia and Saudi Arabia did improve their plans the last time round, but still have "considerable scope" to go further, the think tanks say.

While some countries, such as the UK, had already submitted ambitious 2030 NDCs, so far they are falling short on implementing them, they said.

Sky News has contacted the UK's business and energy department with a request to comment.

Jamal Srouji from World Resources Institute, said: "Holding global temperature rise to 1.5C is still possible - but it will require rapid, far-reaching transformations across every key emitting sector."

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