G20 rifts threaten global climate goals for warming, clean energy
A model of G20 is pictured outside ITC Maurya hotel ahead of the G20 Summit in New Delhi, India, September 8, 2023. REUTERS/Amit Dave
What’s the context?
As G20 nations struggle to agree on climate action needed for 1.5C limit ahead of summit, research finds emissions are set to rise
- No consensus among G20 nations on key climate commitments
- U.N. report says window closing to meet 1.5C warming limit
- Oil producers, emerging economies shun renewables goal
NEW DELHI - Leaders of the G20 group of rich nations face pressure in New Delhi this weekend to adopt a unified approach to cutting climate-heating emissions by moving from fossil fuels to clean energy - but geopolitical rows and a lack of finance are clouding the outlook.
Cumulatively, the G20 is responsible for nearly 80% of global emissions and 85% of the world's gross domestic product, giving the bloc a vital role in taking a clear stance on stronger action to curb climate change, experts said.
Failure to do that would threaten an already endangered goal to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, as enshrined in the 2015 Paris Agreement, and make it harder to reach a successful outcome at the COP28 U.N climate summit in December, they warned.
"Together (the G20) have the moral responsibility and the economic heft to slow global warming," said Tom Evans, policy advisor on climate diplomacy at E3G, a global think-tank.
"Yet hopes for bolder climate action from the G20 this year have so far been hamstrung by geopolitical spats between major powers," he said in a press briefing.
After a summer of severe heatwaves, floods and wildfires, notably in the northern hemisphere, ambitious commitments from the G20 could "show the world that they are ready to cooperate to protect people from climate impacts", Evans added.
But the G20 leaders' summit, hosted by India - the world's third-largest emitter - comes amid concern over the feasibility of holding global average temperatures to 1.5C above pre-industrial times, with the world already 1.2C hotter.
On Friday, a U.N. assessment of global climate action so far said it was proceeding but that "much more is needed now on all fronts".
It emphasised that global emissions are "not in line" with meeting the Paris Agreement temperature goal, and pointed to "a rapidly narrowing window to raise ambition and implement existing commitments" to limit global warming to 1.5C.
"The climate crisis is worsening dramatically - but the collective response is lacking in ambition, credibility and urgency," U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in New Delhi ahead of the summit, which he will attend.
G20 leaders must show leadership in "keeping the 1.5 degree goal alive", rebuilding trust, and "advancing a just and equitable transition to a green economy", the U.N. chief added.
He called on high-emitting countries to make extra efforts to cut their greenhouse-gas pollution and on wealthier nations to support emerging economies to do that by delivering on their unmet commitments to provide climate finance.
A report released by development agency Oxfam ahead of the summit found that climate-heating gases from G20 nations - which include major emerging economies - are set to rise by 10.6% by 2030 on the basis of current climate action plans, instead of falling by the 43% needed to stay below the 1.5C ceiling.
Russia-Ukraine divisions sour climate talks
Throughout this year, thousands of officials from G20 nations have negotiated at more than 200 meetings to reach consensus on issues ranging from conflicts to climate change.
But divisions over how to tackle the Russia-Ukraine war have complicated discussions on climate action.
Reuters reported that countries have yet to find common ground on three concrete proposals: peaking of their greenhouse gas emissions by 2025, a commitment to phase down fossil-fuel use, and tripling renewable energy targets.
Saudi Arabia, a major oil-producing country, has pushed back on reducing fossil fuels, while also opposing a strengthening of renewable goals along with Russia, China, South Africa and
Indonesia - the last two of which have won donor deals to do so.
To stay under 1.5C of warming, G20 countries must halve their annual average per capita emissions to 3 to 4 tonnes per person by 2030, the Oxfam report said, noting that current climate pledges would leave them at nearly double what they should be.
COP28 renewables goal
Meanwhile, Germany is rallying international support to set a target at COP28 for tripling global renewable energy capacity, Reuters reported - but developing countries, including Indonesia and South Africa, have said such a goal requires a clear outline of where the funding will come from to put it into practice.
Linda Kalcher, executive director of Strategic Perspectives, a European think-tank, said the G20 summit is a key moment for the European Union (EU) to get other countries on board.
But a global renewables goal "can only become a success if it comes with a financial package to ensure it can be achievable for developing countries", she added.
"The EU and other rich countries can lower the cost of capital and forge new economic partnerships on renewable manufacturing and deployment," Kalcher said.
According to energy think-tank Ember, wind and solar power provided a combined share of 13% of electricity in G20 countries in 2022, up from 5% in 2015, when the Paris climate agreement was signed, adopting a goal to limit warming to "well below" 2C and ideally to 1.5C.
Despite the progress, experts say catalysing a wholesale energy transition will require trillions of dollars in new finance, as well as helping climate-hit countries deal with rising debt levels - issues that have taken centre-stage in the G20 political negotiations and beyond.
The latest available data for 2021 shows that 122 developing nations received about $70 billion to pay for schemes to adapt to climate change and cut emissions, said a new report from the UK-based International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED).
Of that, more than two-thirds - about $53 billion - took the form of new debt, with less than half coming as "concessional" finance, meaning grants or below-market rate loans, it added.
"Most climate finance is provided as loans that only push governments further into debt, which means they have less money available to spend on things like healthcare and education for their citizens," said IIED environmental economist Sejal Patel.
She called on G20 leaders "to make concrete progress on overhauling the international financial system to make it fairer for people suffering the most from climate change".
G20 finance ministers meeting on Sept. 5 hinted that their leaders would likely reach agreement on assisting debt-strapped countries and reforming multilateral development banks to help meet their financial needs, including fighting climate change.
Sanjay Vashist, director of the nonprofit Climate Action Network South Asia, said India has a unique opportunity to influence other G20 nations to take steps to advance a clean energy transition that is just, affordable and inclusive.
"The Indian (G20) presidency must aim to get the world back on track to limit global warming below 1.5C as promised by countries under the Paris Agreement," he added.
(Reporting by Bhasker Tripathi; Editing by Megan Rowling)
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