Persistence, balance helped India achieve climate consensus at G20: Bhupender Yadav

ByJayashree Nandi
Sep 11, 2023 07:43 AM IST

For securing agreement on the climate paragraphs, India adopted a logical framework right from setting the agenda to developing the building blocks of the outcome document, he said

India managed to gain consensus on the most contested paragraphs on climate change through persistence and a balancing act, explains Bhupender Yadav, union environment minister who led the G20 work on climate and environment. No wording on phasing down fossil fuels could be added because economies of many nations depend on fossil fuels and the phasedown/ phaseout of fossil fuels needs to be in line with national circumstances, ensuring just transition, he said. And yet, the G20 countries have recognised that limiting global warming to 1.5°C requires rapid, deep and sustained reductions in global emissions. Excerpts from interview:

Union environment minister Bhupender Yadav.
Union environment minister Bhupender Yadav.

How did India achieve consensus on the climate change aspects of the Delhi declaration?

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The New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration brought out under India’s G20 Presidency is historic. The biggest takeaway of the declaration is that all 83 paras of the declaration were passed unanimously with a 100 per cent consensus, with China and Russia in agreement. For the first time, the declaration contained no footnote or Chair’s Summary.

There are 8 paras on the geopolitical issue which is titled ‘Planet, People, Peace and Prosperity’. All those 8 paras have found 100% acceptance. All countries have unanimously supported the New Delhi Leader’s Declaration. This is one declaration without a single footnote and without any chair’s summary. This is a complete statement with 100% unanimity. The declaration demonstrates both Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ability to bring all developing countries, all emerging markets, all developed countries, China, Russia, everybody together on the same table and bring consensus.

The declaration being the most ambitious, contained 112 outcomes — both the outcomes and annexed documents — which is two-and-a-half- times more than any other.

One of the major key takeaways is an ambitious ‘Green Development Pact for a Sustainable Future’ (Paragraph 32-46) with particular focus on climate action and climate finance. Equally important is the declaration’s focus on a clean sustainable, just, affordable, and inclusive energy transition.

I would state two elements that helped us - persistence and balancing act. We had to take into consideration the aspects of the actual need for action based on scientific evidence by the IPCC; global south’s needs on ‘means of implementation’ in terms of climate finance, technology transfer and capacity building, and pushing the global north to fulfil their commitments. For securing agreement on the climate paragraphs, India adopted a logical framework right from setting the agenda to developing the building blocks of the outcome document via a consultative approach with all the G20 countries through a combination of working group meetings and virtual negotiations.

What were the most challenging aspects of arriving at a consensus on climate and environment paragraphs?

I would say, different national circumstances of the G20 nations made it complex to get consensus. For instance, IPCC AR 6 Synthesis report states that Global GHG emissions are projected to peak between 2020 and at the latest before 2025 in global modelled pathways that limit warming to 1.5°C with no or limited overshoot and in those that limit warming to 2°C and assume immediate action.

IPCC findings are based on certain assumptions and it does not imply peaking in all countries within this timeframe — this was a core area of disagreement. Despite this context, what helped us reach success is the indomitable spirit of the G20 for a strong collective stance, given the differences, and the result is in front of us — a leaders’ declaration that spells ambition, is inclusive and offers a solid base for the next Presidencies to build upon.

Where does G20’s resolution on net zero emissions globally by 2050 take us? Do you think we will be able to keep global warming under 1.5 degree Celsius?

Countries today collectively recognise the best available science for effective climate action and policymaking, which is also echoed in the New Delhi Declaration. The IPCC AR6 Synthesis Report notifies pathways that limit warming to 1.5C with no or limited overshoot, reach net zero CO2 in the early 2050s, and net zero GHG emissions around the 2070s.

The G20 nations through the New Delhi Declaration reiterate commitment to achieve global net zero GHG emissions by or around mid-century, and note the financing needs for implementing NDCs and deploying clean energy technologies, in order to do so. Ambition is key, but the different national circumstances cannot be ignored in the rush to net zero – and the same is highlighted by leaders yet again via the New Delhi Declaration.

Systems transformation is important, but rapid change can be disruptive, and a focus on inclusion and equity will help increase ambition in climate action and support.

That said, we are committed to giving 1.5 scenario our best shot – G20 will pursue efforts to triple renewable energy capacity in the light of national circumstances, and India as we all know has established itself as a world leader in rapid scale up of renewable energy deployment, and energy efficiency measures.

What does low and zero carbon technologies mean? Which technologies may be covered in this?

Low-carbon technologies are designed to reduce or minimize GHG emissions and the environmental impact associated with energy production, transportation, industrial processes, and other sectors. These technologies aim to gradually transition away from carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, and towards more sustainable and environmentally friendly alternatives. Renewable energy is crucial here – solar, wind and biomass. Energy efficiency technologies like LED lighting, smart thermostats, and efficient HVAC systems, electric vehicles, green hydrogen production, high efficiency energy storage systems are some of the key ways to rapidly decarbonise. This apart, carbon capture, utilization and storage and carbon removal technologies such as direct air capture are in advanced stages of research and may see wide scale deployment if cost parity is achieved.

India’s Long Term Low Carbon Development Strategy, submitted to UNFCCC in 2022, identifies innovative technologies in Energy Sector, Industrial Systems and Sustainable Bioresource & Marine Biotechnologies to Reduce Emissions.

Why do you think the G20 did not have any strong wording on phasing down/phasing out fossil fuels?

The G20 brings together nations of the Global North and Global South, who are on very different developmental trajectories. The economies of many nations depend on fossil fuels and the phasedown/ phaseout of fossil fuels needs to be in line with national circumstances, ensuring just transition.

At CoP26, for the first time ever, there as a focus on the source of emission. The cause of global warming and consequent climate change are the Green House Gas Emissions. The G20 countries have recognised that limiting global warming to 1.5°C requires rapid, deep and sustained reductions in global GHG emissions and recognise that the reduction required is 43% by 2030 relative to the 2019 levels.

The Green Development Pact knits together the ambition and the enabling conditions for achieving the ambition.

What does the G20 outcome on climate and environment mean for India?

The G20 outcome is historic for multiple reasons, and charts a very positive direction for India’s climate and environment ambition. It seals the consensus on our choice of thematic priorities we had set out with, in the first place. First, arresting land degradation, accelerating ecosystem restoration, and enriching biodiversity, the second being promoting a sustainable and climate-resilient blue economy and third, encouraging resource efficiency and circular economy. Climate is at the core of G20’s agenda. The thematic priorities also embedded the consideration of principles of sustainable lifestyles, which also echoed the ethos of Mission LiFE, launched by PM Modi globally in 2021.

Key successes on the topics of climate finance from developed to developing countries across mitigation and adaptation, recognition of need for increased global investments to meet our climate goals of the Paris Agreement, and to rapidly and substantially scale up investment and climate finance from billions to trillions of dollars globally from all source, reduction of land degradation by 50% by 2040 on a voluntary basis, recognition of forest fire and mining degraded areas as priority landscapes, ending of plastic pollution among others showcase India’s ambition and direction to combat climate change and environmental degradation, pledge to.

Notably, the adoption of the Chennai High level principles on blue/ ocean based economy by G20 countries, noting of the Gandhinagar Implementation Roadmap and the Gandhinagar Information Platform, G20 ambition to reduce land degradation by 50% by 2040 on a voluntary basis, as committed under the G20 Global Land Initiative (GLI), Call for enhancing global cooperation and sharing of best practices on water, Resource Efficiency and Circular Economy Industry Coalition launched during the fourth ECSWG meeting and acknowledged in the Delhi Declaration showcase how India prioritizes international cooperation to drive meaningful change in climate and environment.

The commitment of G20 Countries implements the G20 High-Level Principles on Lifestyles for Sustainable Development, support to the implementation of the High-Level Principles (HLPs) through international cooperation, financial support, and development, deployment and dissemination of technology and encouragement International Organizations to incorporate the HLPs into their programs, as appropriate is sure to have a significant impact on preservation of environment and tackling climate change.

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