International talks in Osaka and Bonn are marred by continuing divisions over the Paris Agreement and the global response to the escalating climate crisis
The G20 Summit in Japan will kick off today amidst predictions of a sizeable diplomatic row over international efforts to tackle climate change.
Reuters reported officials were still wrangling over the wording of the draft communique that is due to be issued at the close the summit, with the US and Europe once again divided on the level of climate policy ambition they are willing to commit to.
The stand-off comes in the same week as the latest round of UN climate talks in Bonn were marred by a row over how to formally recognise the IPCC's landmark report on the risks associated with more than 1.5C of warming in the UN negotiations.
A small group of countries, led by Saudi Arabia, effectively blocked continued engagement with the IPCC report and even proposed text that would have cast some doubt on its findings - a proposal that was blocked by other countries, resulting in a compromise text that simply expressed "appreciation and gratitude" to the scientific community.
Meanwhile, in Osaka Reuters reported that an initial draft text that made limited mention of climate change had been strengthened with new language to support the implementation of the Paris Agreement.
The changes came as French President Emmanuel Macron suggested France could refuse to sign a communique that does not include a clear commitment to the Paris Agreement.
"If we don't talk about the Paris Agreement and if we don't get an agreement on it amongst the 20 members in the room, we are no longer capable of defending our climate change goals and France will not be part of this," he told reporters.
However, the US is widely expected to push for a softening of the language on climate action and could once again insist on a specific reference to its decision to quit the Paris treaty.
"Negotiations on the topic of climate will be especially difficult this time," a German official told Reuters.
Fears are once again growing that the US and a relatively small band of petrostates could seek to dilute support for the Paris Agreement before it comes into full effect next year.
Meanwhile, major business groups once again called on world leaders to strengthen their commitment to climate action and deliver more ambitious policies to drive investment in low carbon infrastructure.
Earlier this week a group of nearly 500 investors who collectively hold nearly half the world's assets published an open letter calling on the G20 to ramp up their carbon reduction targets, phase out coal power and fossil fuel subsidies, and set a global price on carbon by the end of next year.
And yesterday the We Mean Business coalition, which includes over 900 companies representing $19.3 trillion in market capitalization, issued a detailed statement calling on G20 governments to urgently ramp up decarbonisation efforts in order to ensure global emissions peak by 2020, halve by 2030, and reach net zero by mid-century.
The statement, which is also backed by a host of global green bodies including the Ceres investor network and C40 group of cities, argues the world needs "bold targets and clear timelines from all national governments which give businesses, investors, cities, states and regions the clarity and confidence they need to accelerate and scale-up their climate action".
It also stresses that it is in governments' interests to deliver more ambitious climate policies. "The scale of the climate crisis is more visible than ever and citizens are waking up to the consequences as never before," it states. "We see it vividly in the recent wave of protests around the world, from striking students to disruptive action, and election results in Europe showing that concern about climate change is at an all-time high."
The statement sets out a number of specific policy proposals, calling on governments to deliver new national climate action plans, set a "meaningful" price on carbon, end fossil fuel subsidies, introduce fiscal measures to support clean technologies, support clean city development, enhance climate reporting guidelines, and develop just transition strategies.
The EU, UK, and many other countries may be responding to business calls and stepping up their climate goals and working on more ambitious policies, but it looks as if the divisions that have marred international climate talks for decades remain as present as ever.
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