The consumption of coal in G20 countries will rise by nearly 5% in 2021, the report stated. Photo: DW

GHG emissions on the rebound across G20: Climate Transparency Report

Emissions in China, India projected to exceed 2019 levels, says report released this week 

This week, Turkey became the last G20 country to ratify the Paris climate accord, weeks before the start of COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland. However, despite net-zero commitments and updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC), the G20 is not on track to meet the 1.5°C global warming limit, according to the Climate Transparency Report released this week. Also, despite a decline triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) are on the rebound across the G20, the report stated. China, Argentina, India and Indonesia are projected to exceed the 2019 emission levels, it warned. 

The seventh edition of the Climate Transparency Report was developed by 16 research organisations and NGOs from 14 G20 members. It compared the adaptation, mitigation, and finance-related efforts of the G20, examined recent policy developments, and identified climate opportunities that G20 governments can seize. 

Missed opportunities for a green recovery

A majority of G20 nations missed the opportunities to transition to low-carbon economies by leveraging COVID-19 recovery packages, the report said. According to the report, only $300 billion of the total $1.8 trillion in recovery spending went to the much-heralded “green” recovery, while fossil fuels continue to be subsidised.

In 2019, G20 members, excluding Saudi Arabia, provided at least $152 billion in subsidies for the production and consumption of coal, oil, and gas.

“It is extremely disappointing that a decade has passed since the commitment to rationalise and phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies was made, but G20 members are still pumping billions of US dollars into dirty fuels, which are causing climate change,” says Enrique Maurtua Konstantinidis from Fundación Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (FARN) in Argentina.

While COVID-19 resulted in the decline of energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 6% across G20 in 2020, in the current year, the emissions are expected to rebound by 4%, with Argentina, China, India, and Indonesia likely to exceed the 2019 emissions levels, the report said. 

To fight emissions and achieve net-zero announcements, Gahee Han, one of the lead authors of the report, called for urgent “deep and fast cuts in emissions”.  

Dependence on fossil fuel

The report found that the dependence of G20 countries on fossil fuels is not declining, rather it projected that the consumption of coal will rise by nearly 5% in 2021. As the demand for coal, oil, and natural gas returns to “normal”, the average share of fossil fuels in the G20’s Total Primary Energy Supply (TPES) is projected to increase to 81.2% in 2021 from 80.8% in the last year.

China, followed by the US and India have the most concentration of coal amongst the G20 members, the report said. Globally, China remains the highest producer and consumer of coal, responsible for half of all coal.

However, the consumption of gas has increased by 12% from 2015-2020 and is projected to remain at the same levels in 2021, it said. Countries pursuing coal phase-out policies like China, South Korea, India, Canada, Germany, the USA, and the EU are driving the increase in natural gas. 

The report warned that replacing coal with natural gas is a risky move because there is “a high likelihood of stranded gas assets as the transition to a low-carbon economy accelerates”.

Can implementation of the current NDC targets limit warming to 1.5°C?

According to the report, by September 2021,13 G20 countries had officially submitted NDC updates to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), with six countries committing more ambitious 2030 targets than their last ones.  

However, even if fully implemented, current targets assessed by April 2021 would still lead to warming of 2.4°C by the end of the century, the report noted.  

It pointed out that all NDC updates submitted and announced up to April 2021 leave a significant emissions gap of about 23 GtCO2e from a 1.5°C pathway. The G20 collectively makes up around two-thirds of this gap. 

Growth of renewables in energy supply

The report revealed that the G20 has increased its average share of renewable energy with new records installed capacities (solar and wind) in 2020. While the G20’s share of renewables (including large hydro) in energy supply increased from 9% to 10% between 2019 and 2020, in the current year it is projected to continue, rising to 12%. Moreover, between 2015 and 2020, the carbon intensity of the energy sector has decreased overall by 4% across the G20.

Additionally, in the power sector, renewables increased by 20% between 2015 and 2020, and are projected to become nearly 30% of the G20’s power mix in 2021, it said.

According to the report, despite the pandemic, solar and wind power have set new records in terms of overall installed capacities among G20 nations. For example, in 2020, newly installed capacity of 108GW of wind power almost doubled compared to the 2019 installation of 56 GW.

Is India on track to meet the 1.5°C global warming limit?

India has one of the highest levels of deaths attributable to air pollution amongst the G20 countries, the report said. Around two million people die in India every year as a result of outdoor air pollution due to stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic respiratory diseases.

According to the report, since India is likely to achieve its NDC targets by implementing the current policies, it will be more beneficial if the country submits a more ambitious target. 

On adaptation readiness, India scored well below the G20 average in 2018, the report said. It recommended more investments and innovations to improve India’s adaptation readiness. 

Between 1990 and 2018, GHG emissions in India (excluding land use, land-use change, and forestry) have increased by 172%, the report stated. India’s energy sector is still dominated by fossil fuels (74%), while the share of renewable energy (excluding residential biomass) has consistently increased over time and in 2020 was at 11% of total primary energy consumption, it said. Renewables share in India‘s energy supply (9.4%) is more than the G20 average (7.1%).

“…It (India) is aiming to deliver 450 GW of installed renewable capacity and has recently launched the National Hydrogen Mission to promote clean energy transition. However, there is a strong need of mobilising international support [including climate finance] for resilient and inclusive growth in the country,” said Abhishek Kaushik from The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI).

India’s power sector is dominated by coal, which provided 70% of electricity in 2020. The share of renewable energy in India’s power sector has also been increasing, but from a very low base, and accounts for approximately 23% of the power mix in 2020, the report noted. 

The report also mentioned just transition, which would play a significant role in India’s energy transition. As India moves ahead with its NDC implementation, its transitions away from coal would not be easy. It would have an impact on the economic, social, and political spheres. In order to ensure sustainable livelihoods for people and communities and improve socio-economic and environmental conditions of these regions, India has to rely on a just transition.

How significant is the role of the G20 in the Paris Agreement?

Since G20 as a whole is responsible for around 75% of global greenhouse gases (GHG), it has a significant role to play by committing to emissions reduction targets and implementing policies that align with the 1.5°C pathways. 

The targets made by the governments, including NDCs and some long-term or net-zero targets as of April 2021, would limit warming to about 2.4°C above pre-industrial levels. This puts an onus on G20 members to revisit their current climate policies and action and submit more ambitious 2030 targets that align with mid-century net zero targets.

“…The numbers in this report confirm we can’t move the dial without them (G20) – they know it, we know it – the ball is firmly in their court ahead of COP26,” said Kim Coetzee from Climate Analytics, who coordinated the overall analysis.

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