G20 aims to triple renewable energy capacity; no mention of fossil-fuel phase-out

The group, which includes some of the world's wealthiest economies, also agreed a 'Voluntary Action Plan on Doubling the Rate of Energy Efficiency Improvement by 2030'

An Illuminated view of the Bharat Mandapam at Pragati Maidan, which host the G20 Summit  in New Delhi, India, on 9–10 September  (photo: Raj K Raj/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
An Illuminated view of the Bharat Mandapam at Pragati Maidan, which host the G20 Summit in New Delhi, India, on 9–10 September (photo: Raj K Raj/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)


G20 countries on Saturday, 9 September, said they will aim to triple global renewable energy capacity by 2030 and expedite efforts to phase down coal power, in line with national circumstances but did not commit to a phase-out of all polluting fossil fuels, including oil and gas.

The language on coal aligns with what was agreed upon in the previous G20 Summit in Bali, Indonesia.

The bloc — which represents 85 per cent of the world's GDP and contributes 80 per cent of emissions — said it will uphold its 2009 promise made in Pittsburgh to eliminate and rationalise inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.

According to a key technical report on the first-ever Global Stocktake published on Friday, 7 September, scaling up renewable energy and phasing out unabated fossil fuels are indispensable elements of ensuring a just energy transition to net-zero emissions.

The G20 is home to 93 per cent of the world's operating coal capacity (1,926 GW) and 88 per cent (305 GW) of the pre-construction coal capacity, according to a report by Global Energy Monitor.

In the leaders' declaration released at the G20 Summit here, the bloc noted the findings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) that global greenhouse gas emissions should reach their highest point, or 'peak', somewhere between 2020 and no later than 2025 to meet the temperature goals of the Paris Agreement.

However, they said it doesn't mean that every individual country must reach its emissions peak within this timeframe.

"Timeframes for peaking may be shaped by sustainable development, poverty eradication needs, equity, and in line with different national circumstances," the declaration read.

"Will pursue and encourage efforts to triple renewable energy capacity globally through existing targets and policies, as well as demonstrate similar ambition with respect to other zero and low-emission technologies, including abatement and removal technologies, in line with national circumstances by 2030," it said.

The group, which includes some of the world's wealthiest economies, also took note of the 'Voluntary Action Plan on Doubling the Rate of Energy Efficiency Improvement by 2030'.

The leaders' declaration reflected significant progress considering the G20 climate and energy ministers had in July failed to agree to tripling of RE capacity by 2030 and peaking of global emissions by 2025.

However, experts viewed the RE capacity tripling deal without the backing of fossil-fuel phase-out as a disappointment for India, which relies heavily on coal for power generation and has been calling for a phase-out of all fossil fuels since COP27 last year.

"Reiterating language from the last G20 on efforts to phase down coal just maintains the status quo. Increasing renewables must be backed by phasing down fossil fuels — both are indispensable for just transitions and a net-zero world," said Madhura Joshi, India Lead at climate think tank E3G.

Amitabh Kant, India's G20 sherpa, called the leaders' declaration "probably the most vibrant, dynamic and ambitious document on climate action".

Sultan Al Jaber, the president of the next UN climate talks, lauded the G20 for making important progress.

"I am specifically grateful for the commitment made today to triple renewables by 2030. These 20 countries account for 80 per cent of global emissions, so this declaration sends a powerful signal for climate progress. I further welcome their alignment with the COP28 agenda concerning loss and damage, adaptation finance, closing out the USD 100 billion pledge made over a decade ago," he said.

Jaber had earlier stressed that the phase-down of fossil fuels is "inevitable" but contingent upon a substantial increase in renewable energy capacity worldwide.

At the G20 energy ministerial meeting, Saudi Arabia led the opposition to fossil fuel phase-down efforts. The omission of fossil fuel phase-down/phase-out in the final text of the summit suggests the gulf country prevailed during negotiations.

The G20 countries recognised that limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius requires rapid, deep and sustained reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions of 43 per cent by 2030, relative to the 2019 levels.

However, they "noted with concern" that the global ambition to combat climate change and achieve the temperature objectives outlined in the Paris Agreement remains insufficient.

The grouping also reiterated their commitment to achieve global net zero GHG emissions/carbon neutrality by or around mid-century, while taking into account the latest scientific developments and in line with different national circumstances.

To reach net-zero, the countries will also take into account different approaches, including the circular carbon economy, socioeconomic, technological and market development, and promoting the most efficient solutions. The G20 said that developing countries will need USD 5.9 trillion in the pre-2030 period to implement their national climate plans effectively, with the aim of holding global warming at well below 2 degrees Celsius, preferably not exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius.

To achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, developing countries will require approximately USD 4 trillion annually for clean energy technologies by 2030, the bloc said.

They called for a substantial scaling-up of investment and climate finance, transitioning from billions to trillions of dollars from all sources.

The G20 also urged developed countries to fulfil their commitment to double their collective adaptation finance provision by 2025, compared to 2019 levels.

The developed countries in the bloc reaffirmed their commitment, dating back to 2009, to jointly mobilise USD 100 billion in climate finance annually by 2020, continuing through 2025. Developed countries anticipate achieving this goal for the first time in 2023.

The G20 also called for ambitious, transparent and trackable New Collective Quantified Goals (NCQG) for climate finance in 2024, starting from a floor of USD 100 billion a year.

They said this should consider the needs and priorities of developing countries in alignment with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and Paris Agreement objectives.

However, Christopher Beaton, lead, energy programme, International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), said it is unacceptable that despite the multiplication of extreme weather events which are causing suffering and financial losses, G20 leaders once again failed to acknowledge the need to phase down the use of all fossil fuels — coal, oil and gas.

He said that rapidly phasing out public financial support for fossil fuels is a critical first step towards reducing global production and consumption of coal, oil and gas, and that the G20 should have proposed a more concrete plan to achieve this.

Swati D'Souza, lead analyst and coordinator for India at the International Energy Agency, said, "From an energy and climate perspective, the Indian G20 presidency had an ambitious agenda focused on new and emerging clean energy technologies and finance.

"But as it happens, this agenda got repurposed.

"The only highlight right now is the clear and concise language with respect to tripling RE. This provides a platform for further clarification between now and the COP (target, baseline, year etc).

"Moreover, if this gets into COP summaries, it becomes another hook for countries to expand their NDC ambitions on."

On the reference made to the Pittsburgh commitment on phasing out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies, she said it is important to note that the Pittsburg conversation was not one between energy ministers.

"It is surprising but encouraging to see statements from the Bali declaration on unabated coal finding mentioned here as well," D'Souza said. "This despite the fact that India did not discuss coal phase-out/phase-down through the discussions, maintaining its stance on fossil fuels. This suggests that the Indian presidency had to keep its personal ambitions aside and focus on its role as a consensus builder in order to ensure that we don't backslide from the previous G20."

D'Souza added that the inclusion of the statement on tripling renewable energy is the biggest win in the final declaration. The language is simple and clear, and includes 'other zero and low-emission technologies', she noted. 

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