INDIA has emerged as a shining star in the global firmament with the success of the G20 summit, demonstrating its ability to become a bridge between the developed and the developing worlds and also a voice of the Global South. The leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the deft diplomacy of India’s Sherpa Amitabh Kant as well as the External Affairs Ministry team have earned high praise, and rightly so.
For many, the big achievement was bringing the G20 to a consensus on the Delhi Declaration, especially on the contentious matter of the Ukraine war on which the group faltered in Bali last year. India began by suggesting a completely new text that recalled the Bali Declaration but dropped condemnation of Russia. In a smart move, India co-opted other emerging powers — Brazil, South Africa and Indonesia — and their combined efforts forged a ‘deal’ that Russia could live with and the West found expedient to accept.
True, the Ukrainians have aired their disappointment, but that is really addressed to their Western supporters, who will have to explain their G20 stance to their people and opposition parties. Basically, though, for them (the West), the continued relevance of the G20 was an imperative, more so as the Chinese gave an impression of undermining the grouping by the absence of their President. Moreover, the West, and indeed most of the world, clearly recognises India by itself as very important — both as a huge and growing market, including for defence equipment, and as a bulwark against Chinese hegemony, especially in the Indo-Pacific.
With the ‘resolution’ on Ukraine in place, it was prudent for the Chinese to lift reservations on India-suggested ideas such as LiFE (Lifestyle for Environment), women-led development, digital public infrastructure, etc., given that the Delhi Declaration sought to push the agenda of the Global South. The inclusion of the African Union as a member of the G20, at India’s instance, led to a changed approach, along with the fact that accelerating progress on Sustainable Development Goals, where the world is well behind the target, was a major objective of the declaration.
While focusing on the Delhi Declaration’s pronouncements on sustainable development, climate change and energy, it needs to be highlighted that the G20 is about impacting rule-making by the relevant de jure body, be it the UN, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), WTO or the IMF/World Bank. And this has been done in a major manner in Delhi and should raise optimism among activists who point to the fact that no large-scale funds have been specifically committed for climate action, including the loss and damage fund, or even resolving debt issues.
Monies, obviously, are the key resource. Therefore, perhaps, most important is the commitment to reorient multilateral development banks (MDBs) to poverty eradication and prosperity in a sustainable world. Actions as per this template should tackle capital adequacy at the MDBs and help them move private flows in a significantly enhanced manner to developing countries through de-risking. Indeed, a major outcome of the proposal by Prime Minister Modi of a virtual G20 event in November-end could be a report on MDB reforms by a high-level expert group co-led by Prof Larry Summers of the US and NK Singh of India. All of this was also underscored in a declaration involving India, the US, Brazil and South Africa — along with World Bank President Ajay Banga — issued on the sidelines of the G20 summit.
The declaration itself centre-staged the huge sums required for climate action, moving the needle from billions to trillions of dollars. Specifically, it noted “the need for $5.8-5.9 trillion in the pre-2030 period required for developing countries as well as the need for $4 trillion per year for clean energy technologies by 2030” for net-zero emissions by 2050.
Secondly, it has forced the developed world to set a New Collective Quantified Goal, which is ambitious, transparent and trackable, for its assistance to developing countries (recall $100 billion a year pledged in Copenhagen, 2009, which is still to be realised) and double the collective provision for adaptation finance. Of course, it would have been good had a push been given in Delhi for the setting of a global goal for adaptation at COP28 in Dubai in November-December this year.
Net zero (GHG emissions) has been an objective of the global community since the UNFCCC meeting in Glasgow in 2021. Interestingly, the Delhi Declaration is unambiguous that this is a global goal and that the mid-century global goal does not imply peaking in all countries within a similar timeframe. Hopefully, this will push the developed countries to recognise that they need to achieve this milestone well before 2050 as a show of intent and their commitment towards the Paris Agreement’s principle of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR) and respective capabilities.
For India, the wording on global net zero is a reclamation of significant policy space in the climate domain along with a clear recognition of its view that not just countries but the people — the poorest and most vulnerable — should not be forgotten in multilateral negotiations. Recognising the need for action on fossil fuels, the declaration underlined action on inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption and the need to expand cleaner technologies, including small modular nuclear reactors, triple renewal energy capacity globally and green hydrogen. Furthermore, demonstrating concrete action on climate change, a Global Alliance for Biofuels was announced by India.
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