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The climate impact of India's G-20 Vasudev Kutumbaikam - One Earth One Family

Vasudeva Kutumbaikam - This is the theme for India's G20 summit. One earth One family One future.

The G20 summit in Delhi concluded with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi handing over the ceremonial gavel to Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, marking the transfer of the bloc’s presidency. This event marked a significant triumph for India and showcased its growing leadership in addressing climate change.

During the summit, the G20 unanimously adopted the New Delhi Declaration, a notable achievement considering the divisions that had emerged, especially regarding the Ukraine crisis. This declaration emphasized coordinated efforts to support the global economy, addressing debt vulnerabilities in low and middle-income countries. One of the highlights of the 83-paragraph declaration was India’s leadership in proposing inclusive climate action through a green development pact and sustainable development goals. The inclusion of the African Union in the group demonstrated India’s commitment to inclusivity on the global stage.

In his opening statement, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called upon world leaders to foster trust and confidence in each other, underscoring India’s role in forging consensus within the G20. The G20 countries made a significant commitment to triple global renewable energy capacity by 2030 and expedite efforts to phase down coal power, taking into account national circumstances. While the declaration did not mandate the phase-out of all polluting fossil fuels, including oil and gas, it upheld the 2009 promise made in Pittsburgh to eliminate and rationalize inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.

Experts noted the importance of transitioning to renewable energy and phasing out unabated fossil fuels for achieving net-zero emissions. They also highlighted India’s ambition to phase out all fossil fuels, emphasizing the necessity of such action.

Difference between renewable energy and fossil fuels ?

Renewable energy is energy derived from natural sources that are replenished at a higher rate than they are consumed. Sunlight and wind, for example, are such sources that are constantly being replenished. Renewable energy sources are plentiful and all around us.

Fossil fuels - coal, oil and gas - on the other hand, are non-renewable resources that take hundreds of millions of years to form. Fossil fuels, when burned to produce energy, cause harmful greenhouse gas emissions, such as carbon dioxide.

Generating renewable energy creates far lower emissions than burning fossil fuels.

Transitioning from fossil fuels, which currently account for the lion’s share of emissions, to renewable energy is key to addressing the climate crisis.

Renewables are now cheaper in most countries, and generate three times more jobs than fossil fuels.

Madhura Joshi, India Lead at climate think tank E3G, emphasized that “Increasing renewables must be backed by phasing down fossil fuels – both are indispensable for just transitions and a net-zero world.” Amitabh Kant, India’s G20 Sherpa, described the leaders’ declaration as “probably the most vibrant, dynamic, and ambitious document on climate action.”

Sultan Al Jaber, the president of the next UN climate talks, praised the G20 for important progress, especially the commitment to triple renewables by 2030, acknowledging that these 20 countries account for 80% of global emissions.

How to triple renewable energy ?

In order to triple renewable energy capacity to at least 11,000 GW by 2030, it is important to accelerate the construction of infrastructure harnessing wind power, solar power, hydropower, and geothermal power. If such technologies are built, the world will be able to leverage long-duration energy storage and use green hydrogen. If energy systems are clean, secure, and just, it will be easier to set the stage for a net zero global energy system by 2050, the letter said.

Renewable energy has revolutionised the world by bringing electricity to countless homes, powering cars and factories with clean electricity, and employing millions of people in green jobs. This means that if renewable energy capacity is tripled, not only will "loss and damage" of nature and people caused by climate change be reduced, but also will sustainable, inclusive, and climate-resilient growth be encouraged.

It may be noted that at the G20 energy ministerial meeting, it was Saudi Arabia that led the opposition to fossil fuel phase-down efforts. Now, the omission of fossil fuel phase-down/phase out in the final text of the summit suggests the gulf country prevailed during negotiations.

Despite this, the G20 countries recognized the need for rapid reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, as outlined in the Paris Agreement.

Experts’ green signal

Dr. Ajay Mathur, Director General, International Solar Alliance (ISA) said, “The Indian G20 Presidency catalyzed a shift towards a human-centric view, emphasized resilience in global supply chains, and promoted multilateralism through global institution reform. It played a significant role as the voice of the Global South, with substantial African participation and support for African Union’s G20 membership.”

Madhura Joshi, India Lead, E3G, Climate think-tank, opined, “This G20 marked several firsts, including African Union’s G20 membership, and crucial decisions to triple global renewable energy capacity, double energy efficiency rates, and reform multilateral banks for affordable finance.”

Lauding the outcomes, Aarti Khosla, Director, Climate Trends, said, “The G20 Leaders’ Summit under India’s presidency maintained sustainability as a common thread. Tripling global renewable energy and enhancing multilateral development bank capacity are promising. Inclusivity was championed, including African Union’s inclusion, but the absence of a fossil fuel phase-down is a missed opportunity.”

Further, Purva Jain, Energy Analyst, Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), averred, “The launch of the Global Biofuels Alliance at the G20 Summit reflects India’s commitment to clean fuels, crucial for meeting Net Zero targets.”

What is a Biofuel

Biofuels are fuels from biomass such as animals, plants and algae. These are ethanol biodiesel, green diesel, and biogas. These are among the many renewable energy sources available to the world.

Likewise, Aditya Lolla, Asia Programme Lead, Ember, said, “The G20’s commitment to triple global renewable capacity by 2030 is a significant step, aligning with 1.5 degrees targets and setting precedents for COP28 agreements.”

Parting Thoughts

However, the G20 also reiterated its commitment to achieving global net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century, recognizing the importance of different approaches, including the circular carbon economy and technological development.

The summit recognized the financial needs of developing countries to implement climate plans effectively, with a focus on limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius. To achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, significant investment and climate finance scaling-up are crucial.

The G20 called on developed countries to double their adaptation finance provision by 2025 and reaffirmed their commitment to jointly mobilize USD 100 billion in climate finance annually, with this goal anticipated to be achieved for the first time in 2023.

In summary, India’s presidency of the G20 in 2023 was marked by success, particularly in the realm of climate leadership, as the summit’s outcomes reflected the country’s commitment to addressing climate change and fostering global cooperation.

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