US President Joe Biden laid into ‘lying dog-faced pony soldiers’ who deny climate change is a problem after the G20 group of leading economies was criticised for failing to endorse tough measures to phase out fossil fuels.

Biden’s leftfield remarks came after the latest summit of G20 leaders in India backed calls to triple renewable energy by 2030 and said $4 trillion a year will be needed to finance the energy transition – but left any toughening of their position on hydrocarbons out of their final statement.

Quizzed about the outcome at a press conference in Vietnam, Biden said there are a lot of “lying dog-faced pony soldiers out there about global warming. But not any more. All of a sudden they’re all realising, it’s a problem”.

The President’s remarks – a reference to a cowboy movie starring John Wayne – left some observers scratching their heads but reflected the divisions that critics say are holding back the type of robust action against fossil fuel production that’s needed to hit climate goals.

The G20 only repeated calls to end unabated coal-power but failed to address the wider global fossil fuels sector, an omission that critics say reflects the ongoing influence of big hydrocarbons producers and consumers on the climate debate in the run-up to the COP28 climate summit later this year.

The UN’s ‘Global Stocktake’ of climate action on Friday said a “rapid reduction of the world economy’s reliance on fossil fuels towards clean energy is central for reaching global net zero CO2 and GHG emissions”.

Alden Meyer of climate and energy think-tank E3G said: “G20 leaders have embraced the goal of tripling renewable energy capacity by 2030, but much work lies ahead, particularly on mobilising the trillions of dollars in annual public and private finance needed to turn that aspiration into reality.

“To have any chance of meeting the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C temperature limitation goal, sharp reductions in the production and use of all fossil fuels – including, but not limited to, coal – are also essential, and on that issue, the G20 leaders are missing in action.”