A significant proportion of the huge budgets that the world's leading economies are directing to COVID-19 recovery packages is going to the fossil fuel industries without climate conditions and risking clean energy opportunities for the next decade, according to the 2020 Climate Transparency report prepared by 14 think tank and non-governmental organizations on Wednesday.
Researchers warn that by providing unconditional support to fossil fuels, government recovery responses to the pandemic risk are reversing instead of locking in positive pre-COVID-19 trends. They said that 2019 has seen a remarkable departure from the long-term growth trend in energy-related emissions and a stable expansion of renewables in G20 countries.
According to the report, the majority of G20 countries chose to provide financial support to their domestic oil, coal and gas sectors, while 14 of them bailed out their national airline companies without climate conditions.
Only four of G20 countries provided more funding to green sectors compared to fossil fuel or other emission-intensive industries, the report said.
"The recovery packages can solve the climate crisis or make it worse," Charlene Watson of the Overseas Development Institute was quoted as saying.
She said that some G20 members in the European Union (EU), like France and Germany, are setting mostly a good example in building more resilient economies, while shielding themselves against the accelerating climate impacts. Other countries, however, are directing too much to fossil fuels and putting at risk the recent, positive developments.
According to the report, in 2019 energy-related CO2 emissions declined in G20 countries for the first time due to climate policies with a 0.1% drop from a 1.9% growth rate in 2018 rather than due to external shocks, such as during the 2008/2009 financial crises.
Energy-related emissions in G20 countries are projected to fall by 7.5% by the end of 2020 compared with 2019 due to the impacts of the pandemic, which led to a huge drop in global aviation emissions.
"Before the pandemic hit, the results of climate action were coming to fruition in some energy-related sectors and the crisis consolidated those trends in the majority of the G20 countries," said Jorge Villarreal, climate policy director at Climate Initiative of Mexico. "But without further climate action these effects will be temporary and concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere continue to rise. The political choices in the coming months will determine whether G20 countries manage to sustainably bend the emissions curve."
The report remarks that China, South Africa, Japan and South Korea are the most recent to join the race to carbon neutrality by the mid-century, as the momentum behind tougher climate targets among the world’s largest emitters is building.
However, short-term policy frameworks and investments are not yet consistent with long-term plans, the report warned.
- Countries become more vulnerable to climate crisis
Climate-related weather extremes, such as heatwaves, wildfires and flooding will become more severe in G20 countries as global warming approaches the 1.5°C threshold.
Australia, Brazil, France, Italy, Turkey, India, Saudi Arabia and South Africa risk greater exposure to climate-related impacts compared to other countries, the report said.
"We urgently need more ambition and leadership from the world’s biggest economies and emitters at the upcoming G20 Summit and next year’s UN Climate Conference," Catrina Godinho, project coordinator at the HUMBOLDT-VIADRINA Governance Platform, said.
She said the US election result offers some hope for international climate politics, but she urged that all G20 countries do their part.
- Turkey's program has positive and negative sides
According to the report, Turkey, Indonesia, and South Korea are among the five countries with comparatively smaller reductions in carbon emissions in 2020.
The growth of emissions in these countries stood over the average growth in key sectors in 2019, it said.
"Turkey’s COVID-19 recovery package focuses on healthcare, social protection, employment and economic stimulus with little to no reference to environmental or climate objectives," the report said, adding that the package includes support for airline companies and the mining sector.
The report noted a positive measure in the announcement of a "green tariff" for power from renewable sources and support for solar power in Turkey.
Turkey launched a separate "green tariff” in August offering consumers the option of choosing electricity from renewables only.
Turkey, along with Mexico, South Africa, South Korea and Japan, also have national policies and strategies in place for near-zero new buildings, although they are not yet 1.5°C compatible, the report revealed, suggesting that these strategies need to be in line with the global climate targets.
By Nuran Erkul Kaya