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G20 Summit 2023: what are the new climate promises?
On Saturday, the 9th of September, the G20 group held their annual meeting in India. The world eyed their moves, hoping to hear a commitment to renewable energy sources and increase funding for climate change solutions— but did they?
G20 Summit 2023: One Earth, One Family, One Future
PM Narendra Modi looked around the incomplete attendees and commenced his remarks by drawing attention to a nearby monument, apparently located a few kilometers from the summit venue.
It bears an engraved message from India to the world, emphasizing the preservation of human blessings and happiness. The theme of the meeting was One Earth, One Family and One Future but Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russia's Vladimir Putin were not in attendance.
The blessing and happiness of humans currently lie in their right to breathe fresh air, pay non-inflated prices, and sleep peacefully without worrying about flooding, wildfire, and heat waves.
As it so happened, the news of PM Modi's opening speech at the G20 summit was heavily dominated by the news of flooding in Hong Kong and Greece and the earthquake in Morocco.
G20 still has a lot to put into action. That includes contributing to developing nations' need for $5.9 trillion by 2030 to meet their climate targets. And, an annual additional requirement of $4 trillion globally for clean energy investment until 2030 to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.
Is the 1.5-degree Celsius goal still alive?
The leaders are still hopeful of restraining the Paris Agreement's objective of keeping the global average temperature to below 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. To align with the goal, many nations have set to achieve net-zero emissions between 2045 and 2060 (see Figure 1) but this requires heavy action.
The majority of them have chosen 2050 as the net zero year with Germany being slightly more ambitious by choosing 2045.
The G20 currently represents 85% of global GDP and a similar share of greenhouse gas emissions. The UN has previously urged the leaders to phase out coal usage and allocate a minimum of $500 billion annually toward fulfilling the Sustainable Development Goals.
However, at this G20 meeting, although the members marked a significant milestone by pledging to triple renewable energy sources by 2030, they failed to address a tangible "phasedown" of coal.
With significant fossil fuel producers like Saudi Arabia and Australia, as well as coal-dependent nations such as India and South Africa participating, there was no overarching commitment to phasing out these environmentally detrimental fuels.
Some climate activists reacted quickly. Harjeet Singh from Climate Action Network International expressed his disappointment in not addressing the underlying issue of fossil fuels while still appreciating the G20's dedication to renewable energy targets.
Who are the highest emitters?
During the G20 Summit, the leaders agreed to focus on both reducing their own nations' carbon emissions and providing support to vulnerable economies coping with the impacts of climate change.
From 2019-2021, Australia and South Korea were the leading CO2 emitters per capita within the G20, as demonstrated in Figure 3. Although Australia has managed to decrease slightly in these three years, Saudi Arabia has shown the opposite. Interestingly, India had the lowest emissions per capita with about 1.9 tonnes.
The leaders also acknowledged and stressed the imperative of reaching the peak of global greenhouse gas emissions no later than 2025 to align with the temperature targets set in the Paris Agreement.
Coal power emissions by G20
A Global Energy Monitor reports that the G20 nations collectively host 93% of the world's operational coal power plants and 88% of newly proposed that lack carbon capture technologies.
While China and India often receive criticism for their significant coal-related emissions, the context changes when considering population size. In 2022, Australia and South Korea continue to hold their positions as the leading contributors.
On average, these two nations are responsible for the highest coal emissions in the G20, with each person emitting three times more coal-related emissions per capita than the EU. In the same year, the per capita emissions from coal power in all G20 nations totalled 1.6 tonnes of CO2.
The trajectory of coal power is still on the rise when it should be rapidly decreasing. Embracing renewables on a broader scale will be vital in accelerating the shift to clean energy, a crucial step towards significantly reducing per capita coal power emissions.
Is carbon pricing an answer?
Numerous countries have implemented carbon pricing mechanisms, such as taxation or emissions trading systems (ETS), to advance their climate objectives. According to a World Bank report, there are presently 73 operational carbon pricing instruments worldwide, covering approximately 23% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Addressing the opening session of the G20 Summit, the President of the European Commission, Leyen highlighted the EU's 'Emissions Trading System', which has achieved a 35% reduction in emissions since 2005, while also generating over 152 billion euros ($162.6 billion) in revenue. The EU has committed to cut net emissions by 55% by 2030 from 1990 levels.
Japan, ranked as the world's fifth-largest CO2 emitter, is among the G20 member nations that have recently embraced carbon pricing.
Key highlights of G20 summit 2023
Considering their 2009 pledge, G20 nations agreed to mobilize $100 billion in climate finance annually by 2025, with the potential to achieve this goal by 2023.
The group additionally proposed ambitious, transparent, and traceable New Collective Quantified Goals (NCQG) for climate finance by 2024, commencing at a minimum of $100 billion annually.
The UK would allocate $2 billion (£1.6 billion) to the Green Climate Fund (GCF). This is the largest individual funding commitment the UK has ever made to address global climate change.
The African Union, that includes all 55 African countries, was granted full membership, similar to the EU.
An ambitious infrastructure initiatives aimed at strengthening the connectivity between Europe, the Middle East, and India through an array of trade ventures. The project includes ports, railways, telecommunications, electricity, and clean energy networks.
Nigeria, Egypt, and Mauritius attended as the guest countries.
The G20 Summit in New Delhi reaffirmed the critical importance of addressing climate change and accelerating the transition to cleaner energy sources.
While a complete phase-out of fossil fuels was not explicitly pledged, the leaders stressed the imperative to expand renewable energy capacity significantly and achieve substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
Next, the focus is on COP28. The world watches with anticipation, wondering if these leaders can deliver their commitments.
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