Market and mitigation dominated G20 climate actions — not a good signal leading to COP28, claim experts   

Woefully inadequate in response to Global Stocktake Report and unlikely to keep temperature rise within 1.5°C  

By Jayanta Basu
Published: Thursday 14 September 2023
The launch of the Global Biofuels Alliance during the G20 Summit. Photo: @nitin_gadkari / X (formerly Twitter)

The recently concluded G20 leaders’ summit in Delhi has failed to stand up adequately to the looming global climate crisis predicted by science and veered towards mitigation and market in the name of climate actions, observed climate experts across South Asia. 

There was little emphasis on key issues of fossil fuel cut and providing fund support to adaptation and loss and damage, they noted.

Unless a holistic and deep emission cut, including fossil fuel phase out, gets engineered in COP 28 (to take place in Dubai this year), the world, particularly the vulnerable and already-impacted South Asian region, may soon slip into deeper climate chaos, the experts pointed out. 

The Global Stock Take (GST) report, published ahead of the Delhi meeting, pointed out that global emissions should be reduced by 43 per cent by 2030 to keep temperature rise within 1.5 degree Celsius over the pre-industrial era as planned in Paris agreement in 2015. 

“This GST report provides clear direction on how we can meet the expectations of the Paris Agreement by taking decisive action in this critical decade,” said COP28 President-Designate Sultan Al Jaber at the report release; but the sentiment hardly got reflected in G20 leaders’ communique.

Rachel Cleetus, policy director, Climate and Energy Program, Union of Concerned Scientists, pointed out that while G20 leaders signalled support for strong global renewable energy and energy efficiency goals, the weak language in the outcome does not give assurance that these goals will be met.

“In the context of the UN GST report just released, which shows countries are falling well short of meeting global climate goals, this G20 outcome is woefully inadequate,” she opined.

“Rich nations within this group of leading economies have not only failed to curb their own emissions but have also fallen short in financially aiding developing countries with their green initiatives. There have been hardly any references about adaptation and loss and damage funding,” said Harjeet Singh, head of Global Political Strategy, Climate Action Network International, claiming that unless there is a holistic action to cut emissions deep, the 1.5°C bar will soon be breached.

Positive signals, but not strong enough

The decisions that emerged at the summit included encouraging the tripling of global renewable energy capacity and voluntary doubling the energy efficiency by 2030, setting up of a global biofuel alliance as well as a green hydrogen innovation centre. The countries also discussed a financial target of $5.8-5.9 trillion pre-2030 to implement NDCs and $4 trillion annually to achieve Net Zero status by 2050.

“There were some positive signals, which countries now need to translate into meaningful action. But countries also did not go far enough on finance and fossil fuels,” said Ani Dasgupta, Chief Executive Officer of World Resource Institute (WRI), a global climate think tank.

Dasgupta further added that while the declaration draws attention to the scale of climate finance that is urgently needed, G20 needs to adopt concrete new actions to address the severe lack of finance and debt crises that climate-vulnerable countries face.  

“Mitigation is important but push towards only mitigation, and hence market, needs to be countered in COP28 discourse. We must keep in mind that the trend has been ongoing for some time,” said Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad, an economist and climate expert from Bangladesh.

“Though there are a few references about adaptation in the G20 leaders’ communique, the emphasis is definitely on mitigation. Along with mitigation, adaptation is also key, particularly for vulnerable countries of the Global South and especially in South Asia including India, and needs to be stressed,” said Nilanjan Ghosh, director of ‘Think 20’, secretariat of India's G20 presidency.

Ghosh claimed that most of the multilateral financial institutions and development banks are biased in favour of mitigation because of their market return; but fail to value the social return of adaptation projects.

Fossil fuel ignored, COP28 under scanner

The Delhi declaration has maintained the status quo with respect to phasing down coal and added no new language on the contentious agenda from the last G20 summit. G20, home to 93 per cent of the globally operating coal power plants and 88 per cent of new proposed unabated coal power plants, failed to agree to end new coal power plant construction.

“In an effort to geopolitically accommodate all and have a consensus, both developed countries and emerging economies seemed to have agreed in favour of no reference to fossil fuel in text at the expense of heightening global risk,” said one expert working closely with the Indian government.

“While the G20's commitment to renewable energy targets is commendable, it sidesteps the root cause — our global dependency on fossil fuels,” said Singh. He pointed out that unless rich nations, in particular, within the group lead by example and set a high bar ahead of COP28, the civil society will go hard on the agenda during the upcoming UN climate summit.

"Unfortunately, the New Delhi Declaration, despite its good intentions, fails to send a strong signal to countries to take transformative action and once again global ambition and implementation to address climate change remains insufficient," said Sanjay Vashist, director, Climate Action Network South Asia.

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