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G20 Ministers Agree On Most Climate Issues, But No Consensus

By July 29, 2023

The chair's summary of the meeting highlights the lack of unity among nations on key issues like phasing down unabated fossil fuels, increasing renewable energy, and providing low-cost financing for developing countries

G20 Ministers Agree On Most Climate Issues, But No Consensus
Developing G20 countries emphasised the need for developed countries to achieve net-zero emissions by 2040, considering historical cumulative emissions as a measure of responsibility. DepositPhotos
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Environment Minister Bhupendar Yadav on Friday said the G20 climate ministers' meeting in Chennai on Friday wrapped up with success, with the countries agreeing on 64 out of 68 issues.

However, the chair's summary of the meeting highlighted the lack of unity among nations on key issues crucial for limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius such as phasing down unabated fossil fuels, increasing renewable energy, and providing low-cost financing for developing countries.

The meeting comes after the bloc, responsible for 85 per cent of the world's GDP and 80 per cent of the emissions, failed to reach a consensus on tripling renewable energy capacity to 11,000 gigawatts by 2030, phasing down the unabated use of fossil fuels and plans to finance the transition during the Energy Ministerial Meeting held in Goa last week.

According to the chair's summary, which spells out the issues that lacked agreement, the bloc discussed accelerating the scaling up of renewable energy, tripling of renewable energy capacity, phasing down of unabated fossil fuels, doubling the global rate of improvement of energy efficiency, scaling up of already available low and zero emission technologies, carbon removal and abatement technologies, and access to low-cost financing for developing countries.

Addressing a press conference, Yadav said the meeting was a success and the ministers stand united in their commitment to create a sustainable and resilient future.

Developing G20 countries emphasised the need for developed countries to achieve net-zero emissions by 2040, considering historical cumulative emissions as a measure of responsibility. However, there was a clear divide between developed and developing countries on this issue.

Some members emphasised the need for a global peaking of emissions no later than 2025, and reduction in emissions by 60 percent by 2035 over 2019 levels. 

"There is a clear cut divide between developed and developing countries on these issues and it was no different here," an official who attended the meeting in Chennai told the media.

Developing countries argue that action to combat climate change must be based on the principles of equity and Common but Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities (CBDR-RC).

Equity essentially means that each country's share of carbon dioxide emissions is equal to its share of the global population. The CBDR-RC principle recognises that each country is responsible for addressing climate change but developed countries should bear primary responsibilities as they account for most of the historical and current greenhouse gas emissions.

Expressing the concern that the COP28 commitments like reducing energy and tripling renewable energy capacities are yet to find expression in G20 outcomes, COP28 president-designate Dr Al Jaber had on Friday urged G20 nations to lead the way and demonstrate solidarity on climate action.

Madhura Joshi from global climate policy think tank E3G said:“Despite the Indian G20 Presidency's work to achieve ambitious outcomes across both the G20 Energy Ministerial and Environment and Climate Ministerial, the text indicated that negotiations were mired in differences, with countries failing to rise beyond politics." 

"Ministers highlight that it is imperative to use the best available science for effective climate actions, but the outcomes, especially on energy, leave a lot to be desired. India has an opportunity to drive the new engine of the global economy by leading the Leaders’ summit in September to course correct climate action and agreeing to – tripling renewables by 2030 to over 11,000GW, doubling the rate of energy efficiency, and phasing out fossil fuels. This is what the science tells us is difficult but feasible and critical for keeping 1.5 alive," she said.

Aarti Khosla, Director, Climate Trends, a non-governmental environmental think tank, expressed disappointment with the lack of political will from several countries during the Climate and Sustainability meeting. As the world prepares for the Global Stocktake, G20 nations need to significantly raise their ambitions to address climate change effectively, she said.

Since India assumed the G-20 presidency in December, none of the meetings on foreign affairs, finance, energy, and climate change have resulted in a joint communique so far.

However, the announcements made during these meetings will likely be included in a final document that will be released at the leaders' summit scheduled for September.

The Earth's global surface temperature has risen by around 1.15 degrees Celsius as compared to the pre-industrial (1850-1900) average and the CO2 spewed into the atmosphere since the start of the industrial revolution is closely tied to it.

Major damage had already been done before the 1990s when economies like India started to develop, reports suggest.

Many nations are grappling with extreme heat, with China setting a provisional new national temperature record of 52.2C, Antarctica sea ice at record low levels amid unusual winter heat and Africa experiencing its hottest night ever.

Other regions are facing deadly floods. More than 100 people have been killed in deluges in India and at least a dozen people have died in floods in South Korea.

According to the "Global Carbon Budget Report - 2022", more than half of the world's CO2 emissions in 2021 were from three places -- China (31 per cent), the US (14 per cent), and the European Union (eight per cent).

Ranking fourth, India accounted for seven per cent of global CO2 emissions.

However, at 2.4 tCO2e (tonne carbon dioxide equivalent), India's per capita greenhouse gas emission is far below the global average of 6.3 tCO2e, according to a report released last year by the United Nations Environment Programme.

Per capita emission in the US (14 tCO2e) is far above the global average, followed by Russia (13 tCO2e), China (9.7 tCO2e), Brazil and Indonesia (about 7.5 tCO2e each), and the European Union (7.2 tCO2e).

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