Delivering the promise of climate action in G20

G20 nations collectively account for nearly 80% of global emissions. (Pic: G20 India/Twitter)

By Pawan Kumar and Kumar Kartikeya

The recently concluded G20 Summit in New Delhi has been hailed as a resounding success, culminating in the historic New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration. This declaration prominently addresses critical issues such as climate action, energy security, public health, innovation and technology, gender justice, and several other areas of strategic importance.

Notably, non-member countries including Bangladesh, Mauritius, Netherlands, Singapore, Spain, Egypt, Oman, and UAE were extended invitations to this significant diplomatic gathering. In addition, international development agencies such as the United Nations, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and International Labor Organization were also present.

Initiated in 2008, the G-20 Summit convenes leaders from the 20 largest economies worldwide to deliberate on matters of global significance and foster cooperation among governments and international bodies. The group has identified the climate crisis as one of the most pressing global issues demanding attention.

The G20 member nations collectively account for nearly 80% of global emissions. These nations acknowledged that existing global initiatives to combat climate change fall short of meeting the Paris Agreement’s objective of limiting the global average temperature increase to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. As a result, they committed to intensified efforts to restrict the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Achieving this necessitates swift, substantial, and sustained reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions of 43% by 2030 compared to 2019 levels.

During the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27) in 2022, UN Secretary-General António Guterres cautioned that humanity is hurtling towards a “highway to climate hell with one foot on the accelerator.” This sense of urgency was visible at the G20 Leaders’ Summit in New Delhi as well. Consequently, G20 nations pledged to expedite their endeavors to address environmental crises, including climate change.

The New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration urged all nations to assess and fortify their 2030 targets in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) as needed, by the close of 2023, considering their unique national circumstances. The G20 nations reaffirmed their commitment in New Delhi to achieving global net-zero greenhouse gas emissions or carbon neutrality by, or around, the middle of the century. These member nations considered various scientific advancements, including the circular carbon economy, socio-economic, technological, and market developments, and advocated for practical solutions.

The most concrete action on climate change was the commitment to work towards tripling global renewable energy capacity by 2030. According to estimates by the International Energy Agency (IEA) earlier this year, this single action could potentially avert seven billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions by 2030. Governments worldwide are under increasing pressure to embrace renewable energy goals. The expansion of renewable energy is also the preferred method for countries like India and China to contribute to the global fight against climate change and minimize the reliance on fossil fuels in their economies. Both India and China are formulating policies to phase out coal-based power generation.

Tripling renewable capacity represents one of the most readily achievable targets for the G20 group in combating climate change. Renewable energy is already being rapidly deployed worldwide, with annual capacity additions increasing at a rate of approximately 10% per year. However, due to limited resources in developing countries, they struggle to utilize renewable resources to the same extent as industrialized nations.

According to the IEA, between 2015 and 2022, annual capacity additions more than doubled, increasing by an average of 11% annually. Achieving the new 2030 capacity target for renewable energy sources will require more robust government policies, particularly to ensure resilient technology supply chains, secure and cost-effective integration of solar PV and wind, and widespread deployment of renewable energy sources in emerging and developing economies.

Tripling renewable energy capacity within seven years presents a formidable challenge. However, there is potential for significant progress through increased demand from emerging economies, particularly in Africa. The inclusion of the African Union is expected to provide a substantial impetus to this endeavor. Additionally, there is a possibility that the COP28 climate change conference in Dubai this year may endorse this objective, fostering a broader global commitment to the target.

Pawan Kumar teaches at Amity Law School, Delhi, and specializes in international legal studies. Kumar Kartikeya is a legal researcher.

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