G20 Directionless on Climate Action

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    Stockholm (NordSIP) – Against a backdrop of extreme weather events, wildfires and warnings about potential climate tipping points, the G20 group of nations concluded a four-day meeting in India without reaching consensus on multiple action decarbonisation-related points.  The wealthy nations that make up the G20 are jointly responsible for around 80% of global CO2 emissions, but the outcome of the latest meeting has been described by observers as disappointing.

    Entrenched fossil fuel interests

    Following objections by certain oil and gas producing nations, the group failed to reach consensus on phasing down fossil fuels.  Further disagreements on the goal of tripling renewable energy capacity by 2030 meant that the organisers were only able to release a so-called outcome statement and Chair summary rather than the hoped-for joint communique.  The latter would have signalled the G20’s unanimous agreement on all issues under discussion.

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    Among the objectors to the renewable energy target were Saudi Arabia and Russia, both major oil producing nations.  Coal exporters South Africa and Indonesia were also in opposition, as well as the world’s largest carbon dioxide emitter China.  Fossil fuel producing nations appeared keen to protect the place of gas in the world’s energy mix.  Efforts were made to move away from the term “green hydrogen” towards “low-carbon hydrogen” to allow for the production of hydrogen using gas on the basis that it is less carbon intensive than coal.  India, the host of this G20 meeting, has been pushing for stronger language in climate commitments to encompass all fossil fuels rather than singling out coal.  India’s economy is still heavily reliant on the latter fuel.  The outcome of the discussions was seen as minimal progress at best, with some observers even describing it as backtracking on existing commitments.

    All eyes on COP28

    There was also no discernible progress on the delivery of the $100 billion annual funding promised by wealthy nations at COP26 towards climate action in developing nations.  This week also saw the UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak signalling a shift away from green policies that might impact household spending, while his Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero Grant Schapps stated the government’s intention to “max out” on the UK’s North Sea oil and gas reserves.  The lack of consensus among G20 nations and the politicisation of climate action contribute to ramping up the pressure on delegates at the upcoming COP28 meeting in Dubai.  Previous events have highlighted the difficulty in resolving major disagreements on-site, with the COP structure and timeframe better suited to ironing out the details of pre-prepared drafts.

    Image courtesy of Domenico Mattei from Pixabay
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