Photo credit: Raj K Raj / Hindustan Times
Last weekend’s G20 Summit in New Delhi saw world leaders coming together to tackle pressing challenges, promote economic inclusivity, and chart a sustainable path forward for the planet. The highlight of the summit was the adoption of the Delhi Declaration, led by India, which emphasised the group’s combined ambition for strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth, and establishes a novel green development pact.
The G20, for all its imperfections, is a remarkable example of leaders, nations, friends, and some-time competitors coming together in the spirit of collaboration and in recognition that we are better when working on problems from diverse perspectives. In that vein, the decision to make the African Union a permanent member of G20 represented a significant stride towards a more inclusive and diverse global governance structure.
Under India's presidency, it has been emphatically stated that there will be no concessions when it comes to simultaneously addressing poverty alleviation and tackling the climate crisis. This includes critical issues such as food and energy security, which have been exacerbated by the current European conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Clear principles and priorities have been articulated in the Delhi Declaration, a strong testament to India's pivotal role in advocating for the interests of the Global South, which encompasses marginalised nations within the international order, as well as impoverished and vulnerable populations within both affluent and developing countries.
In addition, member countries reached accords concerning climate financing, the management of global debt, and efforts to reform institutions such as the World Bank. Here are four significant developments that took place at the G20 summit.
Boosting climate action and financing
One of the key priorities at this year's G20 summit was boosting climate action and climate financing, especially for developing and emerging markets. India's G20 Sherpa Amitabh Kant emphasised the need to focus on multilateral organisations, and redefining and reforming them to ensure that developing countries have access to long-term financing for sustainable development. This aligns with the sustainability sector's goals of promoting environmentally responsible practices and addressing climate change on a global scale.
The Delhi Declaration draws critical emphasis on the importance of the ground-breaking "green development pact," where G20 members commit to expeditiously intensifying efforts to combat environmental crises. This commitment will be actualised through the robust and comprehensive execution of the Paris Agreement, with a particular focus on its temperature objectives. While the Delhi Declaration encapsulates the determination of G20 nations, collectively responsible for 80% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions, to align with the objectives of the Paris Agreement, it does not delve into the specifics of the strategies that will be employed to achieve these goals.
Clearly, given the size of emissions from this block, the need to move faster is growing more urgent, and we must hope that advanced economies realise the necessity of reaching this milestone considerably ahead of 2050. Interestingly, the declaration also doesn’t mean G20 members will have to adopt these positions in the climate talks at COP28 in Dubai this November. Negotiating blocs might not adhere to or even refer to the declarations outlined in the G20 summit's outcomes. Consequently, their position may differ when it comes to COP28. Disappointingly, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has already declared the UK will resist ‘hair shirt’ policies on net-zero pledge. However, it is crucial to remember that political differences should not deter agreements on critical issues impacting human rights, social protection programmes, and climate change.
Global Biofuels Alliance
The G20 Summit, which was packed with discussions on critical topics of concern, including alternative fuels such as hydrogen, resource efficiency and the reform of development banks, saw the launch of the Global Biofuel Alliance (GBA). Spearheaded by India, Brazil and the United States, the alliance announcement states that it “intends to expedite the global uptake of biofuels through facilitating technology advancements, intensifying utilisation of sustainable biofuels, shaping robust standard setting and certification through the participation of a wide spectrum of stakeholders. The alliance will also act as a central repository of knowledge and an expert hub".
While the alliance seeks to support G20 nations in decreasing their dependence on fossil fuels, there is an anticipation that within the next three years, the overall expenditure on non-fossil fuels could witness a significant reduction, thereby aiding these nations in reaching their Sustainable Development Goals. Nevertheless, it's noteworthy that the G20 did not introduce any new language pertaining to their shift away from fossil fuels. Instead, member states, which collectively host 93% of the world's operational coal power plants, committed only to a gradual "phase down" of coal usage.
There is also a chance that the alliance's positioning in the context of OPEC-plus grouping members such as Saudi Arabia and Russia may introduce geopolitical complexities and challenges; nevertheless, one hopes that involving a wide range of countries (19 -- including G20 and non-G20 nations) and 12 international organisations will serve to promote global collaboration, knowledge sharing, and capacity building in the biofuels sector. So much so that achieving the ambitious goals of tripling global biofuel production by 2030, as suggested by the International Energy Agency and mentioned in the Delhi Declaration—a formidable task that requires substantial investments, research, and development—becomes possible.
India-Middle East-Europe economic corridor
Unveiled during the G20 summit by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, this multinational infrastructure project is poised to reshape global economic connectivity significantly, especially among India, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Israel, and the European Union. By enhancing trade efficiency through the development of shipping ports and rail routes, this corridor represents a "green and digital bridge across continents and civilisations," as emphasised by von der Leyen.
The idea of the India-Middle East-Europe economic corridor has the potential for both significant benefits and challenges, and its merit depends on various factors, including its execution, environmental impact, and geopolitical implications. It will foster economic growth by facilitating trade, reducing transportation costs, and promoting investment in infrastructure development, providing an alternative to China's Belt and Road Initiative.
What is important now is that the construction and operation of infrastructure projects in sensitive areas is undertaken in a way that is an example of avoiding adverse environmental effects, such as habitat disruption, deforestation, and increased carbon emissions, and it will therefore be essential to mitigate these impacts. If executed with sustainability in mind, the corridor could incorporate green infrastructure and technologies, contributing to reduced carbon emissions and a more environmentally friendly approach to economic development.
African Union's permanent membership
The decision to welcome the African Union (AU) as a permanent member within the G20 is a monumental stride towards acknowledging the pivotal role of Africa and the Global South in the ever-evolving global economic landscape. By extending this status, the G20 leadership is not only recognising Africa's significance but also signalling a profound shift in the dynamics of global diplomacy. This decision catapults the AU into a select league, as it becomes only the second regional bloc, following in the footsteps of the European Union, to secure a permanent seat at the G20 table; and reaffirms the fundamental principle that addressing complex and interconnected global challenges necessitates a multitude of perspectives and close collaboration among nations worldwide.
For the sustainability sector, this development carries immense promise and potential. Africa's diverse array of challenges and opportunities in the realms of environmental conservation, climate action, and sustainable development have long been understated, and often under-supported, on the global stage. With the AU's permanent presence in the G20, these crucial issues will be thrust into the spotlight of international discourse. Africa has experienced the adverse impacts of climate change first-hand, including extreme weather events, droughts, and food security issues. Its participation in G20 discussions on climate action will ensure that the continent's experiences and concerns are integrated into global strategies aimed at mitigating the effects of climate change and achieving sustainability.
The G20 Summit of 2023 will be remembered for its forward-thinking initiatives and its dedication to global cooperation and sustainability. These developments demonstrate the potential for world leaders to come together to tackle pressing challenges, promote economic inclusivity, and chart a sustainable path forward for the planet. As a partner in the sustainability sector, Xynteo welcomes these moves and looks forward to supporting their implementation to create a more equitable and sustainable world.
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