G20 sherpa welcomes 'virtuous race to the top' in climate action

Italian diplomat hopes large polluters will show leadership on eve of Cop26

Climate protesters take to the streets in Italy, which is hosting a G20 summit on the eve of Cop26 talks in Glasgow. AP
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Climate plans put forward by rich countries are triggering a “virtuous race to the top”, Italy’s top G20 diplomat has said.

Luigi Mattiolo expressed hope the club of large polluters could spur action to counter global warming.

A G20 summit will take place in Italy on the eve of the Cop26 climate showdown in Glasgow. Wealthy nations will be expected to show leadership by making firm commitments to go green.

Speaking to the T20, a think tank affiliated to the G20, Mr Mattiolo said Italy was pushing member states to invest in tackling climate change.

“All countries have to do their own part. But it’s clear that the members of the G20 are required to show leadership and they have a special role to play,” he said.

“The world is now looking to us for the decisive contribution to the climate crisis, whose ramifications are set to extend deeply into each of our lives if we do not act now.

“A strong resolve by the G20 will therefore be instrumental to a successful Cop26 in Glasgow. Ambitious pledges from many countries are already generating a virtuous race to the top, which is our only chance to counter this global threat.”

Mr Mattiolo is an official G20 sherpa tasked with preparing the ground for the summit on October 30-31.

Talks between G20 energy ministers in July ended with a call to speed up climate action – but no agreement on phasing out coal power.

Britain wants all its electricity to be green by 2035, while Germany has a coal phase-out date of 2038. India has stressed that developing countries must not be disadvantaged. The UK, as Cop26 host, is pushing China to end coal financing abroad.

G20 leaders will return to the coal question in this month’s summit, before delegates from 196 countries gather in Glasgow for Cop26.

The G20 accounts for about 80 per cent of global income and 75 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions.

Mr Mattiolo highlighted Italy’s promise to spend 40 per cent of economic recovery funds on tackling climate change.

He said the world would pay a “far vaster price” if it refused to face the costs of the energy transition now.

“The actions we have taken to date are insufficient,” he said. “Under current policies, we are set to exceed 3°C of global warming.

“If this were to occur, the consequences would be catastrophic – for ourselves, for our way of life, and most importantly for all of our children.”

The Paris Agreement in 2015 called for the global temperature rise to be limited to 2°C, or preferably 1.5°C, above pre-industrial levels.

A landmark scientific report, published by the UN in August, said the consequences of climate change would be far more severe at 2°C or more.

Updated: October 05, 2021, 12:36 PM