G20, which represents a Group of Nineteen countries (including India) and the European Union, is the premier forum for international economic cooperation. It was founded in 1999. It plays a vital role in shaping and strengthening global architecture and governance on all major international economic issues. Earlier, the G20 catered to broad macroeconomic issues but gradually after 2010, it started discussing subjects ranging from sustainable development to trade, agriculture, health, the environment, climate change, energy and anti-corruption.
The G20 summit is held annually under the leadership of a rotating presidency. Currently, India holds the G20 Presidency from 1, December 2022, until 30, November 2023. The theme of India’s presidency is ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (One Earth, One Family, One Future)’. India aims to build a sustainable future through global cooperation.
G20 and sustainability
Environmental challenges and climate change are at the centre of the G20 this year and it propagates the message of collectively taking action towards these issues. It is building on its extensive expertise in green growth, clean and climate-resilient infrastructure, fossil fuel subsidies, energy regulation, green finance and investment, environmental taxation and ESG. It extensively promotes clean energy transitions. The OECD (Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development) is showering immense support on these abovementioned environmental agendas of the G20.
However, this is not the first time such issues have been addressed. For more than a decade, the OECD has been supporting climate initiatives. Back in 2009, the G20 leaders in Pittsburgh committed to "rationalise and phase out over the medium term inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption". In support of such a commitment, the OECD documented the size and scope of fossil fuel subsidies (FFS). During the 2013 Presidency, the OECD played a major role in the development of a country-led methodology for undertaking voluntary peer reviews of countries’ FFS.
In 2016, the GFSG (Green Finance Study Group) was established under the G20 finance track for the purpose of identifying institutional and market barriers to green finance. The OECD contributed to GFSG by giving inputs to the G20 Green Finance Synthesis Report on enhancing the ability of the financial system to mobilise private capital for green investment. It was able to make an active contribution because of its expertise in green bonds and institutional investors.
In 2017, it developed a new pro-climate and pro-growth narrative in support of the German Presidency’s major climate initiative in its report titled ‘Investing in Climate, Investing in Growth'. The narrative reflected an analysis backed by evidence on how fiscal and structural reforms, together with a coherent climate policy, could generate sustainable growth that would not only significantly reduce climate risks but could also provide employment and health benefits. This report was presented to the leaders at the G20 Hamburg Summit.
In 2018, the Argentina G20 Presidency focused on multiple issues relating to extreme weather events and adaptation to climate change and the OECD contributed its analysis towards the same. Later in 2020, during the Saudi G20 Presidency, the OECD presented a paper on the formulation of policies towards a net-zero transition and an analysis on strengthening adaptation-mitigation linkages for a low-carbon, climate-resilient future. Further, in 2021, when Italy held the G20 Presidency, the OECD supported the Presidency’s strong address on green recovery and climate sustainability.
G20 India Presidency
India is committed to working towards healing our one world, creating harmony within our one family and giving hope for our one future during its current presidency. Under the Sherpa Track, 13 Working Groups and 2 Initiatives are expected to meet under India’s presidency. One of the working groups under the Sherpa Track is the ECSWG (Environment and Climate Sustainability Working Group). Four meetings of the ECSWG are scheduled for the G20 India summit, of which two have already taken place. These meetings are hosted by the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Climate Change (MoEF&CC). The three priority issues that have been identified for these meetings are-
Arresting land degradation, accelerating ecosystem restoration and enriching biodiversity
Promoting a sustainable and climate-resilient blue economy
Encouraging resource efficiency and the circular economy
The first meeting concluded in Bengaluru on 11, February 2023. It was a three-day meeting and marked the beginning of constructive discussions within G20 countries for a sustainable future. The best practices for ecosystem restoration in forest fire and mining-affected areas were shared in the meeting. In order to showcase the practicality of these best practices, visits to Bannerghatta National Park and Kalkere Arboretum in Karnataka were arranged. Methods to restore land-based ecosystems that are affected by anthropogenic causes were spoken about. Discussions also took place on the creation of circular economies in various sectors like steel and biowaste and on the role of extended producers’ responsibility in the creation of a circular economy. Further, issues such as marine litter, conservation and enhancement of coastal and marine ecosystems and marine spatial planning were also addressed. The Indian Government’s initiative, LiFE (Lifestyles for Environment), was highly spoken of and its principles were highlighted.
The second ECSWG meeting concluded in Gandhinagar on 29, March 2023. The discussions from the first meeting were carried forward in this meeting. The environmental commitments were reaffirmed. Site visits to the Adalaj Vav, Sabarmati Riverfront and Narmada main canal took place. These visits highlighted India’s ancient water management practices and its long-standing tradition of conserving water resources. Draught publications on the compendium of best practices by experts from UNCCD (United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification) and ICFRE (Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education) were presented. Presentations were also made by industry experts, emphasising the need to protect and conserve coastal and marine ecosystems.
The G20 countries are trying to address climate change in a comprehensive manner. The efforts of the G20 countries should be highly acknowledged. And the G20 nations should continue to approach sustainability issues in a coordinated and action-orientated manner that would ensure a decisive outcome.
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