G20 summit will play a crucial role for future climate discussions and help shore up action required from both developed and developing countries, experts said.
The G20 summit will play a crucial role for future climate discussions and help shore up action required from both developed and developing countries, experts said on Thursday as they stressed on the key issues of climate finance and loss and damage fund during the HT G20 Agenda on green development; climate finance and LiFE (lifestyle for environment).
Stressing on the need for swift action against the climate crisis, the experts cited the latest World Meteorological Organization (WMO) report that has warned against a likely breach of the 1.5°C temperature threshold, at least temporarily, within the next five years.
“It’s a very important time for us — for the Indian Government to make sure that the issue of climate action is given the highest priority for the future. G20 is the opportunity to put forward a very clear statement that we take the issue of climate change and mitigation very seriously, at a time when countries appear to be missing their 2030 targets,” said Sunita Narain, director general (DG) at the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), who was a panellist at the G20 Agenda discussion.
Across the world, she added, countries are still reliant on oil and gas, and fossil fuels. “I think it’s important for G20, under the leadership of India, to make sure that there are very clear statements about both the need for action, the need for equity and climate justice, without which one will not get an effective climate agreement for the future.”
Another panellist, Arunabha Ghosh, CEO at the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), said it was important for the G20 to recognise that the climate crisis is not just an environmental issue.
“It is at the heart of a far bigger existential problem that will impact our economic prospects, human development, the resilience of our natural ecosystems and the prospects for future generations,” he said.
The loss and damage fund, a key proposal during COP27 climate talks in Sharm El-Sheikh last year, aims to compensate the most vulnerable countries facing the adverse effects of climate change. It also featured in Thursday’s discussion.
Experts also raised the need to have a clearly defined mechanism for the distribution of funds and eligibility of countries that can be compensated for the losses.
“Apart from the G20, there is also a financing summit that president (Emmanuel) Macron is hosting next month. India is co-chairing the steering committee and one of the things we are exploring is how we can explore innovative financing mechanisms that can raise a lot more capital particularly to address the vulnerability issue. While mitigation financing gets a lot more investment from the private sector, adaptation and particularly resilience will require a lot more innovative thinking,” Ghosh said.
On whether India, as a developing nation, contributed to this loss and damage fund, Narain said that the Framework Convention on Climate Change, 1992, was quite clear on this. It was a rule-based system.
“The biggest question out there is, who should pay for the loss and damage fund? Should India pay for it? Now our position has been absolutely no and this is where we go back to the root of the problem of climate negotiations. In the 1992 framework, it was said that there are a group of countries which have created the problem and they need to reduce emissions. The remaining world will also add to emissions as they grow and they need the right to develop, but they must develop differently, and for that, they need finance and technology. India has not contributed to the stock of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, either in the past or even up to 2030 and it should not be part of the conversation...” Narain added, asserting that it was simply a “distraction” to delay framing this global negotiation.
Ugo Astuto, ambassador of the delegation of European Union (EU) to India, who was also part of the discussion, clarified that the EU was already demonstrating its commitment in respect of the last edition of the COP summit.
“In the last few days, there was the controversy whether a loss and damage fund be created or not, but then the EU clearly came out in favour of its creation and together, we are working with India for a positive conclusion. The EU today is already the largest provider of public funds when it comes to climate change and the largest provider worldwide of development aid. In the EU, we also have a target now of cutting carbon emissions by 55% by 2030. This is enshrined in law and not a vague aspiration, meaning all EU member states will have to follow this.” he said, stating that the G20 summit can be instrumental, as collectively, the G20 countries were a significant contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions. “Therefore, the countries have a particular responsibility too. It is a forum where collective decisions can be taken and agenda can be shaped,” he added.
The issue of a transition to renewable energy was also brought up during the discussion, with experts calling for a smooth transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, without impacting developing countries significantly. Sumant Sinha, founder, CEO and chairman of ReNew, said the country was on course to meet its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) under the Paris Agreement of meeting 50% of its energy requirements by non-fossil fuels by 2030.
“In terms of meeting this target, I think we will be able to achieve it, because we are already at 40% right now. Getting to 50% means that if we just add the next 50-60 GW in renewable energy, we will be there and that will happen in the next three to four years.”
However, he said there were also roadblocks, which were making the process slow. “Adding capacity for renewables is not that simple, as there are certain execution issues which we are dealing with and that is preventing us from going at a certain pace. We have to plan this transition very carefully, because if we phase out fossil fuels too rapidly and the renewables are not able to phase in fast enough then it will have a fundamental problem.”
Narain added that while coal had been phased out by countries which have currently contributed the most to greenhouse gas emissions, now the onus suddenly lies upon the remaining 70% of the world to do the same, which she believes is unfair.
“Essentially, this means that 70 per cent of the world which has not contributed to the stock of greenhouse gases -- which is least capable of moving out of its current energy security, which is based on coal, the onus of change is put on them. One needs to move towards looking at gas and coal together. Delhi has banned coal within a 100km radius, due to high pollution levels. We want industries to move towards gas, but the gas prices are so high today, largely because of the fact that today, all the gas in the world is going towards countries willing to pay more.” she said.