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Special Content

Issue no 26, 23-29 September 2023

G20 India: Accelerating Climate Action for a Sustainable Tomorrow


Madhubanti Dutta

When the world turned its attention to the G20 Summit under the concept of 'Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam,' meaning "One Earth, One Family, One Future" it conveyed a deep sense of shared humanity and collective responsibility. The mention of living in harmony with the surrounding ecosystem indicated a strong commitment to environmental sustainability. It hinted at an awareness of the challenges presented by climate change, biodiversity loss, and other ecological issues, as well as a resolute determination to discover solutions that harmonise with the natural world.  In the New Delhi Declaration, G20 leaders have pledged to implement the G20 High-Level Principles (HLPs) aligning with the key elements of the G20's vision for mainstreaming 'Lifestyles for Sustainable Development' (LiFE) and their efforts to achieve sustainable production and consumption patterns.

Sustainable Tourism: The G20 Leaders' Declaration clearly acknowledges the vital role of the tourism sector in addressing climate change. The 'Goa Roadmap' adopted under the G20 Tourism Track is a pioneering initiative that serves as a testament to the profound impact of tourism upon societal, economic, and environmental dimensions. Within its comprehensive framework, the roadmap addresses five interrelated priorities meticulously identified by the G20 Tourism Working Group: Green Tourism, Digitalisation, Skills, Tourism MSMEs, and Destination Management. In an effort to facilitate the seamless execution of this comprehensive plan, the Ministry of Tourism has forged a collaborative partnership with the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), resulting in the inception of the G20 Tourism and SDG Dashboard.

Empowering Women in Climate Action: The G20 Leaders' Declaration underscores the significance of women-led growth and gender-inclusive climate action within the G20 agenda, recognising the profound interconnection between gender equality, economic prosperity, and climate action. Empowering women economically and in leadership roles has the potential to unlock substantial economic growth, fostering more robust and sustainable economies. Addressing gender gaps in workforce participation, wages, and economic opportunities is a priority in achieving more inclusive and equitable economic development. Additionally, involving women in climate action enhances community resilience, as they possess valuable knowledge and skills related to sustainable agriculture, water management, and disaster preparedness. Collaborative efforts among governments, civil society organisations, businesses, and international institutions, facilitated by the G20 platform, are instrumental in advancing both gender equality and effective climate action.

Global Energy Markets and Climate Goals

·         Market Transformation: Accelerating clean energy transitions in the G20 can lead to significant changes in energy markets. This may include a shift away from fossil fuels towards renewables, which can impact energy prices, supply chains, and energy-related investments.

·         Emissions Reductions: The G20's efforts to promote clean energy can contribute to substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, aligning with global climate goals such as those set out in the Paris Agreement. These actions are essential for limiting global warming and mitigating climate change.

·         Energy Security: Transitioning to clean and sustainable energy sources can enhance energy security by reducing dependence on fossil fuel imports and diversifying energy supply. This can contribute to geopolitical stability.

·         Job Creation and Economic Growth: The clean energy sector has the potential to create jobs and stimulate economic growth. Investments in clean energy technologies can foster innovation and new business opportunities.

·         Global Collaboration: The G20's commitment to clean energy transitions can set an example for other countries and regions, encouraging global cooperation on climate action and sustainable development.

·         Climate-Resilient Healthcare Systems: G20 will bolster the resilience of healthcare systems and promote the development of healthcare systems that are both climate-resilient and low in carbon emissions. This will be done in collaboration with Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) and in support of the World Health Organization-led Alliance for Transformative Action on Climate and Health (ATACH).

·         Renewable Energy Infrastructure: Shifting to low-carbon and sustainable energy technologies often require the development, installation, and maintenance of renewable energy infrastructure such as solar panels, wind turbines, and energy-efficient buildings. These projects can create a substantial number of jobs, both in construction and long-term maintenance.

Focus on Hydrogen: The G20's dedication to advancing the global hydrogen market, as outlined in the "G20 High Level Voluntary Principles on Hydrogen," signifies hydrogen's critical role in the shift towards a sustainable, low-carbon energy future. Key principles involve prioritising zero and low-emission technologies, underscoring the significance of green hydrogen produced from renewable sources or Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). Additionally, the G20 envisions a global hydrogen ecosystem that benefits all nations, emphasising equity and inclusivity in the deployment of hydrogen technologies. This collective commitment aligns with the broader global agenda to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change by utilising hydrogen as a versatile energy carrier across multiple sectors, including industry, transportation, and power generation.

Green Hydrogen Innovation Centre: During India's G20 Presidency, a significant initiative emerged with the establishment of the Green Hydrogen Innovation Centre, spearheaded by the International Solar Alliance (ISA). This initiative underscores a commitment to harnessing renewable energy sources, particularly solar power, for green hydrogen production. Green hydrogen, viewed as a vital component in the transition to clean energy, holds the potential to replace fossil fuels in various sectors, reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The Innovation Center's focus on technological advancement can accelerate research and development efforts related to green hydrogen production and utilisation. Additionally, it may offer capacity-building programs to equip member countries with the necessary skills and knowledge for successful green hydrogen projects.

Doubling the Rate of Energy Efficiency by 2030: The G20's "Voluntary Action Plan on Doubling the Rate of Energy Efficiency Improvement by 2030," is another ambitious goal. It's important to note that the effectiveness of the commitments will depend on the specific actions taken by individual G20 countries, including the development of policies, investments in renewable energy, and efforts to reduce coal usage and fossil fuel subsidies. Additionally, international climate negotiations and agreements will continue to shape the global response to climate change.

Global Biofuel Alliance: The Global Biofuel Alliance, receiving recognition through a G20 announcement, represents a significant step in promoting sustainable biofuels and international cooperation in the transition to cleaner energy sources.

Expanding the biofuel sector offers a multitude of advantages. It generates job opportunities across various skill levels, spanning agricultural workers, technicians, scientists, and engineers, thereby addressing unemployment and bolstering livelihoods in both rural and urban areas. Additionally, it attracts investments in infrastructure, research, and technology, fostering economic growth, opening new business prospects, and enriching local and national economies. Furthermore, sustainable biofuels play a pivotal role in curbing greenhouse gas emissions, aiding climate change mitigation and alleviating environmental concerns like air pollution and deforestation as nations shift towards cleaner energy sources. Lastly, the increasing efficiency and prevalence of biofuels can lead to reduced energy costs for households and businesses, subsequently enhancing disposable income and the overall financial well-being of individuals and families.

Climate Financing: Under India's presidency, the G20 announced that developing countries would require USD 5.9 trillion in the pre-2030 period to effectively implement their national climate plans. The primary goal is to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, with a preference for limiting it to 1.5 degrees Celsius. In pursuit of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, developing nations are estimated to need approximately USD 4 trillion annually for clean energy technologies by 2030. The G20 plans to mobilise climate finance and support developing countries in fulfilling their climate goals, particularly regarding the goal of mobilising USD 100 billion annually by 2025.

Tackling Plastic Pollution: The G20 has established an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including the marine environment, with the ambition of completing its work by the end of 2024. They had also planned to build on the G20 Marine Litter Action Plan as elucidated in the Osaka Blue Ocean Vision."

Addressing plastic pollution yields several significant benefits. Firstly, it reduces health risks by creating cleaner environments and decreasing exposure to harmful chemicals, consequently improving public health. Secondly, it enhances food safety by safeguarding marine ecosystems, vital for the seafood industry, leading to safer seafood consumption. Thirdly, it aids biodiversity conservation, protecting marine ecosystems and supporting fisheries and tourism reliant on healthy oceans. Fourthly, it lowers pollution-related costs by reducing cleanup expenses, infrastructure damage, and healthcare costs linked to pollution-induced illnesses. Fifthly, it promotes sustainable tourism through cleaner beaches and marine environments, attracting tourists seeking pristine natural landscapes. Lastly, it contributes to sustainable fisheries by preserving marine ecosystems and ensuring long-term fish stock viability.

Striving for Ecological Balance: Highlighting the significance of healthy ecosystems has far-reaching implications across multiple environmental challenges. It aids in climate change mitigation by harnessing ecosystems like forests and wetlands as carbon sinks, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It fosters biodiversity conservation, vital for ecological balance and resilience, by safeguarding the diverse species inhabiting these ecosystems. It combats desertification and land degradation through sustainable land management practices and ecosystem restoration. It also addresses drought and water scarcity by regulating water supply and reducing the risk of drought through ecosystem maintenance. It bolsters food security by providing essential ecosystem services for agriculture, including pollination, pest control, and soil fertility, supporting sustainable agricultural practices.

The author is a Senior Research Fellow at World Energy Council, India Secretariat. You can send us your feedback on this article at feedback.employmentnews@gmail.com

Views expressed are personal