It will take more than a recalcitrant Donald Trump to detail the decarbonising of G20 economies, especially in emerging nations such as India

A windmill towers over a Tibetan settlement in the Indian Himalayas.

A windmill towers over a Tibetan settlement in the Indian Himalayas.

As leaders of the G20 nations gather in Hamburg in Germany on July 7-8 for their annual meeting, lively debates are expected on climate change, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and German Chancellor Angela Markel prioritising the issue in the backdrop of US President Donald Trump reneging on the landmark Paris Climate Accord.

Modi is expected to reiterate India’s commitment to the Paris deal and renewable energy sources at the G20 summit following the praise he received during his recent visits to Germany, Spain and Russia for the South Asian nation’s proactive stand on climate change.

India is committed to preserving the climate, Modi told the St Petersburg International Economic Forum on June 2 during his visit to Russia, hours after Trump said the US was pulling out of the Paris climate deal. “We must leave for our future generations a climate wherein they can breathe clean air and have a healthy life,” the Prime Minister said. See: Trump bids goodbye to Paris agreement

High ratings

India has received high ratings for its low greenhouse gas emissions per capita, and very high ratings in the category of energy use per capita in a stocktaking report released on July 3. It has the G20’s lowest levels of greenhouse gas emissions and energy use per capita, said the Brown to Green Report 2017: the G20 Transition to a Low Carbon Economy.

At 25 gigajoules (GJ), India’s energy use per capita is the lowest in the G20. Over the last 14 years, it has shown a growth rate of 2%, but remains far below the G20 average of 91 GJ per capita. (Source: International Energy Agency, 2016)

At 25 gigajoules (GJ), India’s energy use per capita is the lowest in the G20. Over the last 14 years, it has shown a growth rate of 2%, but remains far below the G20 average of 91 GJ per capita. (Source: International Energy Agency, 2016)

The global consortium Climate Transparency coordinated this third annual stocktaking of the G20’s climate efforts. The report, compiled with 13 partners from 11 countries, draws on a wide spectrum of published information in the four main areas of emissions, policy performance, finance and decarbonisation, thus enabling comparison between the 20 countries as they shift from dirty “brown” economies to clean “green” ones.

Observers are expecting a clash over climate change between host government Germany and the US during the annual meeting. German Chancellor Merkel is headed for a collision course with US President Trump, the Guardian newspaper reported. Tackling climate change will be one of the central tasks of the summit of the world’s largest economies, Merkel has said. “Since the decision of the US to quit the Paris climate agreement, we are more determined than ever to make it successful,” she has said. “We must tackle this existential challenge, and we cannot wait until every last person on earth has been convinced of the scientific proof.”

G20 crucial for climate action

The G20 group of countries is important for international action on climate change. These nations account for 75% of global greenhouse gas emissions and were responsible for about 82% of global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in 2014.

The energy intensity of India‘s economy has fallen over recent decades and is currently 4.7 terajoules (TJ) per million USD, which is below the G20 average of 5.1 Tj per million USD. (Source: International Energy Agency, 2016)

The energy intensity of India‘s economy has fallen over recent decades and is currently 4.7 terajoules (TJ) per million USD, which is below the G20 average of 5.1 Tj per million USD. (Source: International Energy Agency, 2016)

The Brown to Green report says that the G20 countries are using energy more efficiently and increasing their use of cleaner energy sources, but power consumption has grown in tandem with the economies. Although the growth of greenhouse gas emissions is slowing, it is not yet in decline and coal and other fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas still dominate the G20’s energy mix.

Becoming more efficient

Greenhouse gas emissions increased by 34% between 1990 and 2014 in G20 countries, but their economies grew by 117%, according to the report, suggesting they are using energy resources more efficiently. “The G20 economies are becoming more efficient,” Alvaro Umaña, Co-Chair of Climate Transparency and former environment minister of Costa Rica, said in a statement. “They are beginning to decarbonise, but not enough to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.”

The carbon intensity of total primary energy supply is still rising, despite G20 countries being home to 98% of the global installed capacity of wind power, 97% of solar power, and 93% of electric vehicles, the report said. On a more optimistic note, the report found that more “clean” than “dirty” electricity generation capacity was installed worldwide in 2016. This trend needs to accelerate for the world to meet its Paris Climate Agreement goals.

 

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