Monday, October 2, 2023

G20 can offer the world direction on climate action

This week leaders of G20 nations will gather to deliberate on a plethora of issues that the world grapples with, and agree on a collective stance to combat such challenges. It’s time for India to put the pedal on the metal and steer action-oriented outcomes across priorities. As the world faces the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation, the G20 serves as a key platform to mainstream climate and environment across the development agenda. It is a balancing act for India – taking into consideration the needs of the Global South on climate finance, technology transfer and capacity building, while pushing the Global North to fulfill its commitments. The world needs direction and G20 needs to deliver it.

The climate crisis is not new, but the world faces new challenges as we continue to push the planet’s boundaries. Despite ambitious Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) set by countries, we are headed for a 2.4 degree Celsius global temperature rise above pre-industrial levels. Invariably, this will have a cascading effect, causing sea levels to rise and other catastrophic and potentially irreversible impacts.

Globally we just witnessed the hottest August ever. In 2022, 6.6 million hectares of forest cover was lost to fires and 2023 has already seen worse. Around 80% of all waste that ends up in oceans comprises plastics, harming ecosystems and livelihoods. We all know the perils of air pollution, especially in developing countries. Some estimates project that welfare costs will increase to $3.2 trillion by 2060 because of poor air quality. At this juncture, it is imperative that the leaders of G20 countries, which account for more than 80% of global greenhouse gas emissions and include some of the most climate-vulnerable nations, take a more holistic view on the intertwined issues of environment and climate.

What progress has the G20 made this year on environment and climate, one might ask. A month ago the Environment & Climate Ministers delivered an outcome document and chair’s summary, deliberating on themes of land and biodiversity enrichment, water, ocean-based economy and circular economies. There was consensus on the swift, full and effective implementation of the Kunming Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (KMGBF) to restore both land and ocean ecosystems. Countries expressed determination to end plastic pollution and emphasised the role of forests in sustaining livelihoods while prioritizing biodiversity-rich locations including those affected by forest fires and mining.

Many of these concerns were deliberated upon in an international setting for the very first time and achieved agreement. Acceptance of the Chennai High Level Principles on blue/ocean-based economy indicates a formal recognition of the urgency to protect our ocean ecosystems. The need for accelerating climate action received recognition, and nations agreed on the need for more ambitious nationally determined contributions, mobilising $100 billion in climate finance annually from developed to developing economies, and the importance of using the best available science for effective climate action and policymaking. The collective resolve to contribute to a successful global stocktake during the upcoming COP28 in Dubai could be termed a key success and input to framing a concrete starting point for COP this year.

The achievements at the G20 this year convey a distinct message to the global community, highlighting the remarkable potential for international cooperation among policymakers, corporates and financiers in addressing climate and environment matters.

Partnership for environment: It is crucial for the global private sector to explore partnerships for sharing best practices, innovative financing instruments such as blended finance for circular economies, and advocacy to the government. Citizen participation in driving change is key, and mass beach/river cleanup initiatives could help tackle issues of the ocean such as marine litter. As this presidency saw the acknowledgement of forest fire and mining degraded areas as important landscapes for restoration, it is now time to generate an accelerator platform that enables collaboration among nodal land and biodiversity institutions, climate and environment funds, and government on restoration.

Collaboration for climate action: Combating climate change will be nearly impossible without global cooperation. While ambitious NDCs are in the making, it is crucial that countries start factoring in economy-wide emission-reduction targets. Finance is critically important for the implementation of climate-adaptation action, and MDBs, IFIs and multilateral funds are required to strengthen their efforts including by setting ambitious adaptation finance targets and enhancing private sector participation.

The global stocktake, for which the G20 expressed full support, should look beyond a country-level inventorisation exercise to devising a more solution-oriented global roadmap based on national circumstances to protect our remaining carbon budget. All these instances require global collaboration to accelerate climate action.

The world now looks to the leadership summit to deliver outcomes that are just, inclusive, and action-oriented, leading the world towards development while taking due care of environmental and climate issues. We must come together as one family and fight this battle collaboratively. There is no Planet B.

Ashish Kulkarni is a partner and associate director at BCG; Tania Banerjee is a project leader at BCG.

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Updated: 08 Sep 2023, 08:27 AM IST

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