World leaders head to Glasgow for COP26 as G20 wraps up

World leaders made a climate pledge on coal and recognized the importance of reaching carbon neutrality ‘by or around mid-century’ on the final day of the G20 summit in Rome. Meanwhile, the United Nations’ climate summit COP26 officially began in Glasgow, Scotland amid dire warnings by scientists on the time left to cap global warming to 1.5 celsius. New York Times climate reporter Somini Sengupta joins.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    For more on what was accomplished on climate issues at the G20 and what's ahead at the UN conference, I spoke with Somini Sengupta, international climate reporter for the new york times, who is in Glasgow today.

    So, Somini, what does it mean if the leaders of the G-20 say they are working towards this kind of 1.5-degree target, even though we kind of know we're past that? The way that we're polluting today?

  • Somini Sengupta:

    It's an admission by the 20 biggest economies that the science points us to 1.5 degrees. As you point out their own climate targets—they are what are called nationally determined contributions under the Paris Agreement—taken together, all countries around the world taken together, do not get us anywhere close to one point five. The world is on a trajectory to warm much faster, and that, you know, lays out a pretty harrowing pathway of more heatwaves, more wildfires, more extreme flooding. And the shortcoming of this G20, there are many. One of the shortcomings of this G20 communique is that it really doesn't lay down very many specifics. It does not commit these countries to updating their own climate targets, most importantly, which is what is necessary. They all need to update their own climate targets between now and 2030 in order for 1.5 degrees to be within reach.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    If the G20 countries were not able to make kind of firm commitments among themselves, what's the likelihood that they will in the next two weeks do something substantive or meaningful, especially for the poorer, smaller countries on the planet that are more affected by the policies shaped there?

  • Somini Sengupta:

    It's worth remembering that the lion's share of greenhouse gas emissions that are warming up the planet come from the Group of 20, and so any hope to stave off the worst effects of climate change rests in the hands of G20 leaders. They are very much under the spotlight and their leaders, when they come up to make speeches over the next two days, will be under scrutiny by, I'm sure, their citizens at home and everyone else at the climate summit in Glasgow. There still is ample opportunity for countries, for big, important countries to ratchet up their climate ambition. There is also time, and this is going to be closely watched, what are the richest countries of the world, the countries of the global north that are responsible for the cumulative emissions—what financial commitments are they going to make in the coming days to help developing countries, emerging economies and poor countries make this enormous energy transition, one that would get them to really tamp down on burning fossil fuels and shift to renewable energy systems? It's an enormous transition, and money remains a big point of contention.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    New York Times international climate reporter Somini Sengupta. Thanks so much.

  • Somini Sengupta:

    Thank you.

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