The leaders of the world’s richest economies have agreed to continue efforts to limit global warming through “meaningful and effective measures”.
But the agreement of the G20 summit in Rome made few concrete commitments, disappointing activists.
Host country Italy had hoped that fixed goals would be set ahead of the COP26 summit that has now started in Glasgow.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who hosts COP26, said the promises made by leaders without action “started to sound hollow”.
“These commitments … are drops in a rapidly warming ocean,” said Johnson.
US President Joe Biden said there had been “a number of very productive meetings” at the G20, adding that he looked forward to “making further progress” on climate issues in Glasgow.
He also said China and Russia – some of the world’s top polluters – “basically failed to show up” on climate issues, which was “disappointing”.
The G20 group, consisting of 19 countries and the European Union, is responsible for 80% of global emissions.
Nor does the communiqué or the official statement by the heads of state or government contain any suggestion of reaching net zero by 2050.
Net zero means reducing greenhouse gas emissions as much as possible until a country absorbs the same amount of emissions from the atmosphere that it emits.
However, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said in his final declaration that all G20 countries are determined to achieve the target by the middle of the century. Scientists say this must be achieved by 2050 to avoid a climate catastrophe, and most countries have agreed to it.
However, China – the world’s largest polluter – and Russia have postponed that target to 2060.
Neither China’s President Xi Jinping nor Russia’s Vladimir Putin were in Rome for the conference, but instead took part via video link. Their absence raised concerns that an agreement would not be easy to reach.
Putin said his plan was “not only to achieve carbon neutrality, but to ensure that the amount of greenhouse gas emissions in Russia will be lower than, for example, those of our neighbors and colleagues in the EU over the next three decades”. . “
The communiqué promises to end funding new, undiminished coal-fired power plants internationally by the end of this year – a strong message to coal-dependent nations like China, Russia and India. But the G20 leaders have not agreed to end coal power in their own countries.
Draghi said they were closer to providing developing countries with $ 100 billion annually in climate finance – a key pledge that was pushed through to 2023.
António Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, tweeted that he would leave Rome with his “unfulfilled hopes” but not buried.
Mr Johnson said it had been a “sensible” G20 with some progress, but there was still so much to be done that “the Paris Agreement and the hope it brings is just a piece of paper for now”.
The heads of state and government are due to leave Rome and arrive on Sunday evening before their high-level climate talks on Monday at COP26 in Glasgow.
Mr Johnson had a grim message ahead of the conference: “If Glasgow fails, it will fail”.
Activists had expressed disappointment with the communiqué as they felt it was not harsh enough.
Oscar Soria of the Avaaz activist network told the agency that the group had “low urgency” and added, “There is no more time for vague wishlists, we need specific commitments and action.”
Others, however, were keen to see the G20 as a stepping stone to COP26, which brings together delegates from nearly 200 countries to discuss reducing carbon emissions.
A US official told reporters that the G20 is about “building momentum” before leaders travel to Glasgow, while French President Emmanuel Macron told the Journal du Dimanche that “nothing was ever written before a COP will”.
On Saturday, the first day of the two-day summit, the focus was on Covid and the economy, with an agreement being reached on a global tax rate that would tax the profits of large companies at least 15%.
It follows concern that multinational companies are re-routing their profits through low tax jurisdictions.
After years of talking, the planet is now at least 1.1C hotter than the pre-industrial level. Climate scientist want warming restricted to 1.5C to prevent climate catastrophe.