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UN chief says hopes ‘unfulfilled’ by climate agreements at G20 summit

Antonio Guterres expressed wishes for progress at the Cop26 meeting in Glasgow.

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United Nations secretary general Antonio Guterres (Domenico Stinellis/AP)

United Nations secretary general Antonio Guterres (Domenico Stinellis/AP)

United Nations secretary general Antonio Guterres (Domenico Stinellis/AP)

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres gave a mixed verdict on the climate change agreements reached at the Group of 20 summit, saying he hopes for more ambitious commitments to be made at the United Nations climate conference in Glasgow.

G20 leaders agreed during their two-day meeting in Rome on ending financing for new overseas coal plants but did not set a specific year for achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.

The Group of Seven rich democracies have set 2050 for achieving that goal, while G20 members China, Russia and Saudi Arabia have set 2060.

“I leave Rome with my hopes unfulfilled, but at least they are not buried,” Mr Guterres tweeted.

“Onwards to #Cop26 in Glasgow to keep the goal of 1.5 degrees alive and to implement promises on finance and adaptation for people & planet.”

Mr Guterres told the G20 that “greater ambition” in reducing greenhouse gas emissions was needed to put the world on a path to hold the global average temperature increase to 1.5C (2.7F) by the end of the century.

The G20 acknowledged that impacts are “much lower” with 1.5C but also reiterated the looser goals of the 2015 Paris climate accords, which calls for keeping the increase “well under” 2C (3.6F) while “pursuing efforts” to achieve the 1.5 degree limit.

The difference might seem slight, but the UN’s scientific committee has underlined that the disruption from climate effects such as rising seas and extreme weather are much less at 1.5C than at 2C.

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