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G20 Declarations and the lack of detail

In the G20 New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration, several paragraphs have been devoted to matters relating to renewable energy, climate change, and low carbon growth. In a nutshell, the Declaration states that all efforts will be made to promote low-carbon growth and adopt lifestyles for sustainable development, and conserve biodiversity, forests and oceans. It also mentions that efforts will be made to implement the Paris Agreement through international cooperation, which would include the transfer of low-cost finance and technology.

The fact that emissions could peak by 2025, as highlighted in the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) is also acknowledged and therefore, the need to go net-zero by 2050 is reiterated. The oft-quoted figure of committing $100 billion per year is repeated here and the Declaration adds that this figure would probably be reached by 2023 onwards. In the same breath, however, it is admitted (perhaps for the first time) that the developing countries would need about $5.8 to $5.9 trillion to implement their nationally determined contributions (NDCs).

This huge sum of money would be required for mitigation and adaptation projects. To help mobilise resources, greater access to climate funds has been recommended and enhancing the role of multilateral development banks (MDBs) has been underscored. The need to seek a greater role of the private sector has been suggested. In order to do that, the Declaration recommends the use of public funds as leverage. The Declaration also speaks of operationalising the loss and damage fund, a decision taken during COP27. The contents of this paragraph give a brief summary of what is contained in the Declaration when it comes to climate change, but is certainly not exhaustive.

There are two issues that need to be pointed out. First, if one were to compare the text of the New Delhi Declaration with that of the previous G20 Leaders’ Declaration of 2022 (at Bali) with respect to climate change matters, one can see that the latest Declaration is merely paraphrasing the text of the one issued in 2022. In some instances, it is the same — verbatim. The only new aspect mentioned in the New Delhi Declaration (apart from the setting up of the Global Biofuels Alliance and the Green Hydrogen Innovation Centre) is that renewable generating capacity will be trebled by 2030. This would mean primarily solar and wind. One hopes that this has been well thought out since trebling renewable capacity is easier said than done. It would mean the availability of polysilicon for solar and rare earths for wind-based capacities. Trebling the renewable capacity would also involve issues of grid stability, which can be solved through the installation of batteries on a large scale (as one possible panacea), which in turn would mean that lithium needs to be available in plenty. All these factors need to be accounted for and some mention of it should have been made in the Declaration so that one understands that it is not an

off-the-cuff remark.

The second issue is the mention of “common but differentiated responsibilities” (CBDR) in paragraph 33 of the Declaration. This phrase, incidentally, was also mentioned in the Bali Declaration (2022) and in the Rome Declaration (2021). The concept of CBDR was valid when we were operating in the regime of the Kyoto Protocol (KP). Under KP, only the developed countries were given targets for reduction in emissions and that’s how the term “differentiated responsibilities” came about. In other words, it was recognised that the developed countries were more responsible for the emissions since they were the ones emitting carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

However, today the situation is such that emissions reduction by developed countries will not be enough to save the planet or meet the Paris targets. The steps taken by each country, whether positive or negative, are going to affect the world community at large and the less developing countries, especially the low-lying island nations, are likely to suffer more.

One may add that countries like India and China have set their NDC targets in terms of emissions intensity and not absolute levels, which means that till such time they reach their peaks, the emission levels, in absolute terms, will be on the rise. This, of course, is understandable given their levels of economic growth vis-à-vis developed economies. It would be useful to know that the emissions for more than half of the G20 countries have already peaked and in fact, some have done so in the previous century.

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To come back to the issue of CBDR, today we have the concept of nationally determined contributions (NDCs), which has replaced CBDR. This was agreed to in Paris in 2015 during COP21. Under the new dispensation of NDCs, each country sets its own targets which, however, are monitored and evaluated. Hence, there is an element of responsibility and introspection. So in a way, all countries, be it developed or developing, are equal partners. The point being made is that since we no longer operate under the KP regime, we should drop this phrase of CBDR from our future documents as it is superfluous.

Now that the New Delhi Declaration is done and dusted, one hopes that before the G20 countries meet again in Brazil in 2024, some concrete steps will have been taken, especially towards the flow of funds committed by the developed world since 2010 at Copenhagen. It would be reassuring to see a Declaration that not only states what needs to be done, but also what has been done. Unfortunately, the latter part is missing in all the Declarations for the simple reason that there is nothing to write home.

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The writer is Senior Visiting Fellow, ICRIER and former, Member (Economic & Commercial), CEA. Views are personal

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