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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

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Nov 1, 2021 - Energy & Environment

UN chief to COP26: "Enough of killing ourselves with carbon"

UN Secretary-General António Guterres speaks at a press conference during the G20 Summit in Rome. Photo: Celestino Arce/NurPhoto via Getty Images

GLASGOW, Scotland — UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Monday pleaded for more aggressive steps to curb climate change, telling the COP26 conference that current plans fall short and "our addiction to fossil fuels is pushing humanity to the brink."

Why it matters: Guterres' stark language signals his concern COP26 won't lay the groundwork to put global emissions on a sustainable path.

Updated Nov 4, 2021 - Politics & Policy

The major climate pledges made at COP26 so far

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, India Prime Minister Narendra Modi and UN Secretary-General António Guterres at COP26 on Nov. 1. Photo: Alastair Grant /Getty Images

A global effort to halt and reverse deforestation. A 100+ country voluntary pact to slash methane emissions. And a commitment from India to reduce its emissions to net zero by 2070. The COP26 pledges, both public and private, have started to roll in as world leaders, diplomats and others meet in Glasgow, Scotland, to address climate change.

Why it matters: The UN summit is seen as crucial — "the last, best hope for securing the global commitments needed to get countries on track to avoid potentially catastrophic levels of climate change during the next several decades," reports Axios' Andrew Freedman.

Biden sells hope in remarks at COP26 climate summit

Biden speaks in Glasgow today. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden's delivery at the COP26 climate summit today wasn't especially lively, but his words were heavy on hope.

What they're saying: "The American people, four or five years ago, weren't at all sure about climate change," Biden said. "Well they have, as they say in southern parts of my state, seen the Lord. ... They're now finally — finally, finally, finally — realizing the sense of urgency that you all are."

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