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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The G20 just offered an extended preview of why spurring on-the-ground emissions cuts — not just airy pledges — will be so tough at the critical U.N. climate summit that's less than 100 days away.

Driving the news: The formal communique from the G20 energy ministers' meeting in Naples, Italy late last week finally arrived just yesterday, a reflection of the difficult and protracted talks.

Why it matters: What's most striking is what's not in the 14-page document — any agreement on phasing out coal consumption or overseas coal plant finance by the member countries.

  • That's important because coal is the most carbon-intensive fuel, and steep reductions are needed to keep the Paris climate agreement's goals within reach. We dug into that impasse here.

Where it stands: The outcome fails to expand the recent G7 agreement on coal to the wider G20 that includes major coal consumers China and India, among others.

  • A statement from G20 president Italy notes they were unable to reach agreement on coal phaseout timing, finance and a date for phasing out "inefficient" fossil fuel subsidies "despite a prolonged and tireless discussion."

The intrigue: This morning also brings yet another sign of climate tensions among G20 members.

"China said on Monday the European Union's plan to impose the world's first carbon border tax will expand climate issues into trade in violation of international principles and hurt prospects for economic growth," Reuters reports.

The big picture: OK, onto what the communique does say...it calls the 2020s a "critical decade" to act, "recognizing that the impacts of climate change at 1.5°C are much lower than at 2°C."

  • It also commits countries to submit updated pledges under the Paris Agreement "well ahead" of the U.N. summit that begins in October.
  • Key nations including China — the world's largest emitter — and India have yet to unveil revised commitments.

What's next: The limited outcome underscores the careful and high-stakes maneuvering looming ahead of the U.N. meeting known as COP26 — and all eyes will especially be on how coal and fossil fuel subsidies are addressed at the G20 heads of state meeting just beforehand.

Charted: Putting the G20 coal deadlock in context
Expand chart
Data: BP; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

That chart above, via BP's annual energy stats report, offers a look at global coal demand.

Why it matters: Coal's been on a generally downward trend for years in the U.S. and Europe, but on a global basis remains near peak consumption.

The International Energy Agency estimates that coal-fired power generation could reach an all-time high next year.

Go deeper

UN warns of "catastrophic" climate change failure without more emissions cuts

UN Secretary-General António Guterres at a news conference. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

A United Nations report released Friday warned that the planet will likely warm by more than 2.7 degrees Celsius by the end of the century unless governments take extra steps to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Why it matters: The report, released just months ahead of November's UN Climate Summit, highlights the growing pressure on global leaders to crack down on emissions to avert the worst effects of climate change.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Sep 17, 2021 - Energy & Environment

The uncertain showdown between Democrats and Big Oil

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.). Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Big Oil companies are noncommittal about testifying before a House panel probing the industry's role in spreading misinformation about climate change.

Catch up fast: Top House Oversight and Reform Committee Democrats yesterday sent letters to Exxon, Shell, BP and Chevron — as well as two key lobbying groups — asking top execs to testify Oct. 28.

Pelosi's back-to-school math problem

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) may need votes from an unlikely source — the Republican Party — if she hopes to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill by next Monday, as she's promised Democratic centrists.

Why it matters: With at least 20 progressives threatening to vote against the $1.2 trillion bipartisan bill, centrist members are banking on more than 10 Republicans to approve the bill.

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