Where’s the money? Climate activists ask G20 as talks drift

Members of the campaign group Avaaz, wearing masks depicting Argentinian soccer player Diego Armando Maradona, hold a banner during a protest calling for debt relief for climate as G20 climate and environment ministers hold a meeting in Naples, on July 22, 2021. (FILIPPO MONTEFORTE / AFP)

NAPLES – Environment and energy ministers from the Group of 20 rich nations were making little progress on Thursday on how to reach climate goals, officials said, with a cluster of countries resisting any firm commitments.

The G20 meeting is seen as a key intermediate stage ahead of global climate talks known as COP 26 to be held in Glasgow in November

The G20 meeting in Naples is discussing the natural environment on Thursday, and energy and climate change on Friday, and diplomats have struggled for days to find common ground to put together joint statements on both topics.

“The texts are getting weaker and weaker,” said one official familiar with the talks being chaired by Italy, which holds the rotating, annual presidency of the G20.

A fourth draft of the environment statement seen by Reuters on Wednesday showed a lack of clear policy plans and was still full of brackets around phrases that remained to be agreed.

The G20 meeting is seen as a key intermediate stage ahead of global climate talks known as COP 26 to be held in Glasgow in November.

The urgency of climate action has been brought home this month by deadly floods in Europe, fires in the United States and sweltering temperatures in Siberia, but countries remain at odds on how to pay for costly policies to reduce global warming.

Brazil, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia were among countries continuing to resist attempts by the Italian presidency to beef up the language in the G20 statements, officials said.

“It looks like there will be a complete lack of any commitments on money,” said Oscar Soria of the U.S-based online activist group Avaaz.

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“The north is telling the south ‘we need to protect the environment’ and the south is saying ‘we need money for that’, and the Italian presidency isn’t proving very good at getting everyone on the same page,” he said.

Developed countries agreed at the United Nations in 2009 to together contribute $100 billion each year by 2020 in climate finance to poorer countries, many of whom are grappling with rising seas, storms and droughts made worse by climate change.

However, that target has yet to be met.

Barring last-minute progress, it looks unlikely the Naples G20 gathering will make reference to the $100 billion or make any other firm financial commitments.

“The tragic weather-related events we have witnessed these past months and even days prove our climate system is suffering severe disruption,” Italy’s Ecological Transition Minister Roberto Cingolani said, opening Thursday’s talks.

Cingolani, who frequently warns of the costs of fighting climate change, said unless the financial system became aligned with the needs of sustainable development there will be “catastrophic consequences” for future generations.