Climate action a priority in G20 Delhi Declaration

Raghavan, a shepherd takes the goats for grazing in Metu Pranjeri at Thoothukudi district, Tamil Nadu, India. Photo by Narayana Swamy Subbaraman/Mongabay

  • The G20 New Delhi Declaration commits to limit global warming to 1.5°C, as stated in the Paris Agreement on climate change.
  • The G20 leaders in New Delhi agreed upon accelerating progress towards Sustainable Development Goals, reforming multilateral development banks and financing affordable and sustainable energy transition.
  • The Declaration talks about phasing down coal but makes no commitment to end new coal power plant construction.

The G20 Leaders’ Summit, held in New Delhi on September 9 and 10, adopted the New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration, where climate change took a prominent position on the global geopolitical agenda.

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, in a statement posted on X (formerly known as Twitter), highlighted key outcomes of the Summit which included the Green Development Pact, which is a collective commitment towards sustainable development, an Action Plan on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and reforms of multilateral development banks. He also listed the Global Biofuel Alliance (GBA), a multi-national collaboration to advance adoption of biofuels, as one of the landmark initiatives launched during the Summit in New Delhi.

Other priorities of the G20 countries, as reflected in the Declaration, include promoting an inclusive and accessible transition to sustainable energy, accelerating progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), fostering resilience and sustainability in urban development as well as mitigating disaster risks and bolstering infrastructure resilience. The G20, or Group of Twenty, is an intergovernmental forum of the world’s major economies and its Presidency is currently held by India for one year.

The New Delhi Declaration also underscores inadequacies in addressing climate change, expressing concern that global ambition and implementation of the Paris Agreement commitments to address climate change, remain insufficient. It, however, reiterates the G20’s commitment to “achieving global net-zero greenhouse gas emissions/carbon neutrality by or around mid-century.”

Weighing in on the Declaration, Associate Professor at the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP), Suranjali Tandon says, “The G20 leaders’ declaration sets the reform agenda for the next few years. It emphasises the needs of low-income and small-island developing countries, and hopefully, the approach will be carried forward in the subsequent G20. The declaration underscores the need for fiscal, market, and regulatory mechanisms, such as pricing, to address climate change.” Tandon was a member of the task force on Refuelling Growth: Clean Energy and Green Transition, as part of the ThinkTwenty (T20), the official Engagement Group of the G20.

The Alliance aims to accelerate the worldwide adoption of biofuels by promoting technological progress, increasing the use of sustainable biofuels
The Global Biofuels Alliance is a multi-country network that aims to accelerate the global adoption of biofuels by promoting technological progress. Photo by PIB.

Commenting on the declaration, Mahua Acharya, a carbon market expert and former MD and CEO of Convergence Energy Service Ltd, says that it is a solid agreement that reflects the hard work and consultations that have taken place over the last year.

Climate change is central to the declaration, with collective recognition that to limit global warming to 1.5°C, as committed in the Paris Agreement, 43% reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions is needed by 2030 relative to 2019 levels.

Commitment to energy transition

The Declaration commits to accelerating clean, sustainable, just, affordable and inclusive energy transitions as a means of enabling strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth and achieve climate objectives. It also commits to working towards tripling renewable energy capacity, globally, by 2030.

While recognising the “needs, vulnerabilities, priorities and different national circumstances of developing countries”, the G20 declaration expressed support for “strong international and national enabling environments to foster innovation, voluntary and mutually agreed technology transfer, and access to low-cost financing.”

Additionally, the document endorsed expediting the manufacturing, utilisation and advancement of transparent and robust global markets for hydrogen generated through zero and low-emission technologies, as well as its derivatives like ammonia. This would be accomplished by creating voluntary and mutually accepted standards and inter-operable certification systems.

On the sidelines of the G20 Summit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other global leaders launched the Global Biofuel Alliance which aims to accelerate the global adoption of biofuels by promoting technological progress, increasing the use of sustainable biofuels and establishing strong standards and certifications with the active involvement of a diverse range of stakeholders. So far, 19 countries and 12 international organisations have agreed to join.

The Declaration mentions phasedown and rationalising inefficient fossil fuel subsidies and supports reliable and sustainable supply chains for energy transitions, including critical minerals. Reacting to this, Acharya says that countries have committed to reach net zero by mid-century and to triple renewable energy levels globally by 2023, and that the commitment to blend fuel by 20% with biofuels, is a new and extremely significant move.

However, G20 countries, home to 93% of global operating coal power plants and 88% of new proposed unabated coal power plants, made no commitments to end new coal power plant construction.

Finance on the agenda

According to experts that Mongabay India spoke to, the New Delhi Declaration represents a significant shift in the financial dialogue as higher figures are being quoted and the discourse has moved from finance for mitigation to that for resilience and adaptation. The Declaration says that $5.8-5.9 trillion is needed before 2030 for developing countries to achieve their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). Additionally, it estimates an annual expenditure of $4 trillion for developing countries to attain net zero emissions by 2050.

A drone shot of the Pavagada solar park in Karnataka in India.
The Pavagada Solar Park in Karnataka. India’s inclusion in the global bond index could’ve benefitted the country’s renewable energy sector. Photo by Abhishek N. Chinnaappa/Mongabay.

The New Delhi Declaration endorses reforms for Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs), including the Sustainable Finance Working Group (SFWG) recommendations to expand blended finance and risk-sharing mechanisms. The SFWG’s recommendations emphasise the increased role of MDBs in mobilising climate finance, particularly through concessional resources. “A very significant agenda item is the reform of the MDBs – which I am very pleased has made its way here as a topic of concern,” adds Acharya. The Declaration also supports SFWG’s recommendations on mechanisms for timely and sufficient mobilisation of climate finance while ensuring assistance for transitional activities aligned with each country’s circumstances.

Carbon market expert Acharya told Mongabay-India that the Declaration recognises the financing needs for an energy transition, noting that low-cost capital will be needed.

Tandon, who works on direct taxation and sustainable finance, says, “It (the Declaration) stresses at various places the need for concessional finance given the size of the challenge. As the pressure to enhance developed country contributions increases, the G20’s work will be vital in shaping the new collective quantified goal and making the multilateral development banks fit for purpose. The report carries a range of recommendations and one must closely watch how these are followed through in the future.”

Sustainable cities and resilient infrastructure

The New Delhi Declaration emphasises the need for improved financial mobilisation and efficient utilisation of existing resources to create inclusive, resilient and sustainable cities.

Additionally, the Declaration encourages Development Financial Institutions and Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) to investigate opportunities for financing urban infrastructure. It references the G20/OECD report, Financing Cities of Tomorrow, which outlines a financing strategy and provides a comprehensive collection of inventive urban planning and financing models.

Further, the New Delhi Declaration calls upon financial institutions to consider the applicability of these principles in their urban infrastructure planning and financing efforts, where relevant, and to exchange insights and experiences gained from initial pilot projects.

Reacting to this, Srikanth Viswanathan, the Chief Executive Officer of Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy, says that it is encouraging that there is an explicit emphasis on financing for cities in the G20 declaration. For the world in general, but particularly for India, financing is a critical means to ease of doing business and ease of living in cities. “Achieving these twin objectives with far lower carbon footprint and emissions and preparing ourselves to surmount urban flooding and other climate effects requires large-scale capital raise for our cities. The G20 declaration reflects a shared commitment towards definitive action on financing for cities, particularly with respect to greater contributions from developed economies towards climate resilient infra in the Global South,” he adds.

Regarding building resilient infrastructure, the New Delhi Declaration calls for the expedited advancement of early warning and early action initiatives. These include reinforcing national and local capabilities, utilising innovative financial mechanisms, attracting private sector investments and facilitating the exchange of knowledge. The declaration also reaffirms its commitment to enhancing the capacities of all nations, with a particular focus on emerging economies, developing countries, Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS), to bolster the resilience of infrastructure systems against disasters and climate-related challenges.

SDG, plastic pollution and One Health

The G20 New Delhi Declaration also made commitments to achieve SDGs, end plastic pollution and implement the One Health approach.

Acknowledging that global progress towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is significantly off-track, with only 12% of the targets currently on track at the midway point to 2030, the New Delhi Declaration commits to expedite the execution of the 2030 Agenda and underscores the need to increase funding to accelerate this progress.

In addition to advocating for a One Health approach, the New Delhi Declaration also addresses the need to create climate-resilient health systems with a low carbon footprint. “Enhance the resilience of health systems and support the development of climate resilient and low-carbon health systems in collaboration with MDBs, and support the work of the WHO-led Alliance for Transformative Action on Climate and Health (ATACH),” it says.

The Declaration further states that G20 will implement and prioritise tackling Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) following the One Health approach, including through research and development, infection prevention and control, as well as antimicrobial stewardship efforts within respective national action plans through AMR and antimicrobial consumption surveillance.


Banner image: A goat herder close to a windfarm in Tamil Nadu. Photo by Narayana Swamy Subbaraman/Mongabay.

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