Five Facts to Know: The New Delhi G20 and Climate Action

The G20 under India’s Presidency concluded on September 10 amid increasing geopolitical tensions but also after the timely release of the first Global Stocktake after the Paris Agreement. The release highlighted that the world is widely off track from being on a 1.5°C pathway. While it fell short of calling for the phasing down (or out) of fossil fuels, it will see a global push to triple renewable energy investments to reach USD 4 trillion per year by 2030. As COP28 nears, here are five facts to know about the G20 New Delhi Summit and climate action: 

1. The UN released the first global stocktake during the G20 Summit in Delhi

The first Global Stocktake (GST), foreseen under the UNFCCC Paris Agreement to capture global progress toward achieving its targets, released its conclusions on September 8, coinciding with the New Delhi G20 Summit. As widely expected, the GST highlighted that the world was way off track from a Paris Agreement compatible trajectory of “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.” While global temperatures are already 1.1°C higher than pre-industrialization levels, results from the GST highlight that the world is actually potentially on a 2.6°C trajectory, which would have catastrophic consequences for people and planet.

2. G20 countries account for most globally added GHG emission but differ on emissions peaking

G20 countries emit 80% of global greenhouse gases (GHG) and are home to 93% of global coal power plants and 88% of new proposed coal power plants without carbon capture (CCS). The March 2023 IPCC AR6 Synthesis Report—released by the scientific body advising the UN on climate—highlighted that historical contributions, however, “vary substantially across regions” and “continue to differ widely.” This led emerging G20 countries to oppose commitments on peaking emissions highlighting common but differentiated responsibilities—a concept established in the Rio Declaration in 1992 at the first Rio Earth Summit—and the historic role of OECD countries in the accumulation of GHG since industrialization.

3. Disagreements around exiting fossil fuels persist

While the GST indicated that it was essential to exit non-abated fossil fuels (i.e., without CCS), G20 countries could not agree on strong wording on phasing down (or out) fossil fuels. The G20 merely called to “accelerate efforts towards phasedown of unabated coal power, in line with national circumstances” and to “increase…efforts to implement the commitment made in 2009 in Pittsburgh to phase-out and rationalize, over the medium term, inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.” At the same time the need for “just transitions” was underlined, which reflects emerging G20 members calling on OECD countries to support developing countries to simultaneously increase access to energy and to decarbonize their growth strategies (more EGA analysis on Just Energy Transition Partnerships here).

4. The G20 Summit agreed on accelerating a clean energy shift and on stepping up financial flows

G20 leaders agreed on “tripling renewable energy capacity” and on putting a figure on the resources to reach this target. The USD 4 trillion per year needed by 2030 on renewable energy alone dwarf the USD 100 billion annual climate finance flows agreed at COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009—to be finally met this year (after a three-year delay). The G20 recalled that there was a need to reform the multilateral development banks (MDB) system, highlighting that “stronger MDBs [were] important to…efforts to mobilize financing from all sources for a quantum jump from billions to trillions of dollars for development.” It also called for setting an ambitious New Collective Quantified Goal of climate finance in 2024 from the USD 100 billion per year floor and particularly on doubling adaptation finance as foreseen under the Glasgow Climate Pact.

5. Tangible progress hoped for at COP28 but funding remains an issue

Without strong backing from the G20 it is unlikely that progress on commitments to phasing out fossil fuels will ever materialize at COP28, nor is it likely that more accelerated mitigation ambition will be agreed upon. The G20, however, agreed on operationalizing the loss and damage fund approved at COP27. Financing will remain a key topic amid increasing “funding fatigue” in OECD countries. New initiatives such as a global tax on carbon emissions, as floated by Kenya President Ruto at the first African Climate Week in Nairobi, may gain traction among G20 members—particularly since the African Union has now become an official invitee to G20 meetings.