The Climate Ambition Summit 2020

By Marion Willingham

On December 12th 2020 the UN, UK and France hosted the Climate Ambition Summit in partnership with Chile and Italy. Five years after the Paris Agreement, where 195 countries committed to keeping global warming below 2°C and ideally 1.5°C, many world leaders reconvened to renew their commitment to this goal and establish new targets for reducing carbon emissions. 

The Secretary-General of the UN Antonio Guterres opened the conference by stating that the targets set in Paris in 2015 were not sufficient to remain beneath the 1.5°C limit, and even these targets were not being met. Guterres criticised the fact that G20 countries’ rescue packages for sectors linked to fossil fuels were 50% greater than for those linked to low-carbon energy sources. In order to remain beneath the 1.5°C limit, he encouraged all countries to commit to reaching net zero emissions by 2050, and provide clear short-term targets to outline the path to this goal. Many countries used this summit to outline their emissions targets for 2030. [1]

The first world leader to address the summit was UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Due to the UK’s impending departure from the EU, Boris Johnson announced the UK’s new emissions target, distinct from the target set by the whole EU. On December 4th he announced the UK government’s intention to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 68% (as compared to 1990 levels) by 2030. [2] This target, if met, would put the UK on track to do its part in keeping global warming beneath 1.5°C. [3] Johnson outlined the UK’s ten point plan to reduce carbon emissions. This plan was initially released in November 2020 [4], though some of the included policies had been announced prior to that. [5] The ten parts of the plan are listed below: for further explanation of what the plan entails, see our article investigating this in our ‘International Climate Policy’ section.

  1. Advancing Offshore Wind
  2. Driving the Growth of Low Carbon Hydrogen 
  3. Delivering New and Advanced Nuclear Power
  4. Accelerating the Shift to Zero Emission Vehicles
  5. Green Public Transport, Cycling and Walking
  6. Jet Zero and Green Ships
  7. Greener Buildings
  8. Investing in Carbon Capture, Usage and Storage
  9. Protecting Our Natural Environment 
  10. Green Finance and Innovation

These points have been criticised by various politicians, academics, activists and journalists for not addressing key areas such as coal mining and farming, or for not being ambitious enough, [6] but the government proposal maintains that these initiatives would reduce emissions by 180m tonnes between 2023 and 2032. At the summit, Johnson announced the UK’s additional intention to ‘move away’ from supporting overseas drilling and mining for hydrocarbons and spend £11.6bn on supporting green technology and decarbonisation. 

Despite these plans, it is by no means guaranteed that the UK reaches its 68% target, but the target itself is an impressive step in comparison to other countries and bodies represented at the summit. The EU pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55% compared to 1990 levels. This still does not put the EU on track to meet the 1.5°C target. [7] The world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases is China, and though President Xi Jing Ping proposed new emissions at the summit, China is still not even on track to reach the 2°C aim from the Paris Agreement. [8]

Marion Willingham is an undergraduate linguist at Gonville & Caius college, Cambridge. She’s interested in individual and governmental contributions to meeting the 2050 net zero target, or even the Tortoise ‘moonshot’ of net zero by 2030. 

1 – 
2 – 
3 – 
4 – 
5 – 
6 – 
7 – 
8 – 

Categories International Policy

Tell us what you think!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.