G20 climate ministers failed to make progress on key issues on Friday, drawing sharp criticism from the European Union.
Talks in the southern Indian city of Chennai took place against the backdrop of scientists finding that July is on track to become the world’s hottest month on record.
But the discussions wrapped up without consensus on the global transition away from fossil fuels; last week’s G20 energy ministerial ended on a similar note.
The EU, represented by Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius at the meeting, responded with exasperation.
“At the end of our meeting today, is the glass half full or half empty?” Sinkevičius asked in his closing remarks. “It is certainly empty when we look at where we stand on G20 commitments to address climate change — we simply are nowhere.”
Noting the devastation wrought by extreme weather across the globe in recent weeks, he decried the G20’s inability to find agreement on climate and energy issues as “disheartening.”
He added: “We cannot be driven by the lowest common denominator, or by narrow national interests. We cannot allow the pace of change to be set by the slowest movers in the room.”
France’s Ecological Transition Minister Christophe Bechu also told Agence France-Presse he was “disappointed” with the outcome, adding that discussions with China, Saudi Arabia and Russia in particular had been “complicated.”
The split forced the Indian G20 presidency to publish an incomplete outcome document on issues countries managed to agree on, as well as an additional chair’s summary on others where ministers did not reach consensus.
“There are some issues about energy and target-oriented issues,” Indian Climate Minister Bhupender Yadav acknowledged in a press conference Friday.
There was no agreement on setting global goals for scaling up the deployment of renewables and energy efficiency — a key objective for the Emirati presidency of this year’s COP28 climate talks — or on phasing down planet-warming fossil fuels.
Earlier on Friday, COP28 President Sultan al-Jaber expressed concern that the EU-backed target for tripling global renewable capacity had “yet to find expression in G20 outcomes.”
The chair’s summary included a short section on the energy transition that listed the issues that were discussed, concluding: “G20 members expressed views reiterating their positions” outlined at last weekend’s energy ministerial in Goa.
Discussions on efforts to reach a peak in global emissions by 2025 also ended without consensus, according to the document.
German climate envoy Jennifer Morgan echoed Sinkevičius’ disappointment, saying: “While fires rage around the world and temperatures break records, the G20 as a group has unfortunately been unable to act with the necessary sense of urgency and clarity.”
Progress, she added, “was blocked by a small group of countries.”
The EU and Germany both praised the G20’s “strong signal” on stepping up the fight against plastic pollution and deforestation, as well as countries’ agreement to look at deep-sea mining regulation.
Still, on climate, the G20 “were asked to make bold choices, to demonstrate courage, commitment and leadership,” said Sinkevičius. “But we, collectively, failed to achieve that.”
All eyes are now on the G20 leaders’ summit in New Delhi in September.
“The disappointing G20 energy and climate outcomes show ministers don’t have the mandate to negotiate on the defining issues of our time,” said Luca Bergamaschi, co-founder of Italian climate think tank ECCO. “G20 leaders must step in and together agree the actions needed for a safer planet.”
Louise Guillot contributed reporting.