At Delhi summit, demonstrate climate leadership

The G-20 Summit must strongly commit to collective action to combat climate change

Updated - August 29, 2023 03:39 pm IST

Published - August 29, 2023 12:08 am IST

‘The G-20 should take a lead in streamlining international efforts to achieve just energy transitions’

‘The G-20 should take a lead in streamlining international efforts to achieve just energy transitions’ | Photo Credit: ANI

The G-20 members emit most of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and produce the bulk of its fossil fuels. But, most of them have also pledged to be “net-zero”, cutting back on emissions and fossil fuel use. It is time for the G-20 to act as a united group that drives its own collective climate ambition through collaboration, coordination and competition. The G-20 summit in New Delhi (September 9-10) is a crucial moment to show leadership ahead of the UN Secretary General’s Climate Ambition Summit and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change COP28.

Recently, G-20 members have shown a degree of commitment to shift towards clean energy: renewable energy sources provided 29% of their energy mix in 2021, an increase from 19% in 2010.

India has made significant steps in the last decade to become the world’s third largest producer of renewable energy and setting targets to continue the expansion of installed renewables to account for 50% of energy production by 2030. But, governments need to create a bigger shift as demand increases and the world’s carbon budget is shrinking faster than previously thought.

Ensure clear governance structures

They will need to focus on three action areas:

First, at the national and local levels, G-20 countries need to improve their governance processes for just energy transitions. Governments should establish clear governance structures to ensure that the transition process is inclusive and the results equitable, and avoid siloed working. This includes clarifying responsibilities and mandates between ministries and across government levels with the goal of having coherent delivery plans that can attract investment. Progress indicators should go beyond the traditional ones such as net job creation, diversity of manufacturing and regional economic growth to include metrics on the kinds of jobs created, who has access to them, and levels of broader community resilience and innovation. Depending on the country context, G-20 countries could establish a multi-ministerial task force or joint working groups between government and non-government actors to coordinate just energy transition efforts. For example, South Africa has developed a just transition framework that was led by the Presidential Climate Commission (PCC). Other G-20 members can learn from this approach, to accelerate their own just energy transitions by developing concrete frameworks, road maps, or action plans.

Aiding decarbonisation

Second, as the Indian G-20 presidency has acknowledged, the G-20 should see this transition as a way to diversify G-20 member economies to ensure long-term economic stability, livelihoods and public revenue streams. International financial institutions have a critical role to play by aligning their investments and risk-taking to rapidly deploy vast amounts of renewable energy and grid infrastructure, and to target support to energy efficiency and very low-carbon industrial technologies.

For example, the global increase in demand for and production of green steel necessitates the immediate transition to low carbon steel production pathways.

The G-20 countries, representing 90% of global steel production and 80% of consumption, have a pivotal role in advancing global low-carbon steel production. By setting clear mandates for international financial institutions, such as multilateral development banks and international climate finance, they can drive investments in green steel transitions within developing and emerging economies.

A collective commitment by the G-20 to Green Public Procurement would also accelerate the decarbonisation of hard-to-abate sectors such as steel and cement. However, collaboration within and among G-20 nations is necessary for effective and ambitious reform in public purchasing. Governments must implement effective monitoring, create clear mandates for low-carbon procurement, “upskill” procurement officers, and set time-bound targets to harness the full potential of Green Public Procurement.

Need for transparency

Third, the G-20 should take a lead in streamlining international efforts to achieve just energy transitions. These efforts will be aided by radically improved transparency and accountability, for example by setting up disclosure mechanisms on energy transitions-related data through existing mechanisms, such as the G-20 Energy Transitions and Sustainable Finance Working Groups, and the Just Energy Transition Partnerships (JET-Ps). The G-20 should also encourage fossil-fuel producing countries to provide current, comparable and reliable information about their plans and projects for oil, gas and coal production, and how these align with international as well as national climate goals.

The race to deploy clean energy for all, to decarbonise industry and to achieve a just and inclusive transition cannot be run alone. By taking a lead in these three action areas, the G-20 can ensure this is a relay race that is won together — not at the expense of some countries and communities.

The outcome document of July’s G-20 Energy Transition Ministers’ meeting called for “Just, Affordable, and Inclusive Energy Transition Pathways”. But for countries to get onto such pathways, the G-20 must act together, collaborating and coordinating steps to achieve net-zero ambitions, while competing to achieve them.

The G-20 summit in New Delhi is a crucial moment for the Heads of State and Government present at the meeting to adopt a strong leader’s declaration, committing to collective ambition to combat climate change. In the past few months, the devastating effects of climate change have been clearly shown. There is simply no more time to waste.

Aaron Maltais is Senior Research Fellow at the Stockholm Environment Institute. Claudia Strambo is Research Fellow at the Stockholm Environment Institute. Eileen Torres-Morales is Research Associate at the Stockholm Environment Institute

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