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Tracking G20’s climate action – Brown to Green Report 2018

Climate Transparency released the Brown to Green Report (2018) yesterday. It provides the most comprehensive overview of the climate actions undertaken in G20 countries. Through key indicators, and in a concise way, it indicates how well India has advanced in emissions, policy performance, finance and de-carbonization – compared to its peers.

One of its most important findings is that 82% of the G20’s energy supply still comes from fossil fuels. This needs to change very quickly – if global warming beyond 1.5C is to be avoided. Yet, the report finds that not one of the G20 economies is on track to do so.

In fact with its current dependence on fossil fuels the world is headed towards as much as 3.2C of warming.


India leading the way to climate action

India is leading the efforts amongst the G20 towards climate action. It is most vulnerable to runaway climate change, and is expanding its emissions reduction efforts at impressive speed.

Its Power Ministry has stated that 50% of India’s electricity generation will be through non-fossil fuels by 2022. That is well before – and beyond – its commitment to the Paris Agreement, where it targeted 40% power generation through non-fossil fuels by 2030.

India has also reduced its emissions by 21% below 2005 levels by 2014, and looks set to reach 33-35% by 2030. However, it is still not enough. As Jan Burck of Germanwatch – one of the report’s co-authors – says: “The G20 economies actually need to cut their emissions by half by 2030 to keep warming below 1.5°C”.

Nevertheless, despite being the fastest growing large economy, not scaling up the use of fossil fuels but instead embracing such magnitude of emissions reduction is truly commendable effort by India.

A lot more needed from the rest of G20

Other members of the G20 paint a different picture. Saudi Arabia, Australia and Russia are at the bottom of the list when it comes to emissions reduction. In the power sector Australia, Indonesia and South Africa have the worst emissions intensities. And in transport-related emissions, Australia is again at the bottom, along with USA and Canada.

However, Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany, Japan, South Africa and the UK have all garnered praise for their renewable energy targets and strategies, while the EU collectively leads the G20 in emissions reduction in constructing buildings. In fact its plan for new buildings is the only one compatible with the 1.5°C target.

Fossil fuel subsidies

The Brown to Green report finds that G20 members are still extending a lot more finance to fossil fuels than they gain from putting a price on carbon emissions.

In 2016 the G20’s subsidies to fossil fuels were well beyond what they earned from carbon taxes. Brazil, Italy, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Australia led the group in terms of fossil fuel subsidies as a proportion of their GDPs.

Public financing of brown projects by the G20 members – between 2013 and 2015 – too averaged a whopping $91 billion a year.

However, the report’s co-author, Charlene Watson from the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) says that: “As global temperature rises, so will the risks to economies from climate disruption, and the need for adaptation and mitigation finance. It’s in the G20’s own economic interests to shift from brown to green energy, but we’re still seeing major investment into the fossil fuel industry, along with huge subsidies”.

Financing green energy

Even though the G20 established the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) in 2015 – to encourage more sustainable business practices and inform stakeholders of the climate risks of their investments – so far only France has encoded its principles into law.

Argentina, China, Italy and South Africa, are however, working on structuring financial system roadmaps to move financing away from fossil fuels and into renewable and low-carbon energy systems. Yet, not one of the G20 members has yet announced a strategy to fully phase out fossil fuels.

India on its part has taken action, with some of its large private businesses pledging to go carbon-neutral by 2040. This includes commitments by Mahindra Group and Dalmia Cement – the world’s largest cement manufacturer. The country’s largest public sector lender – State Bank of India – too is planning to raise $500-700 million through green bonds.

Across the rest of G20, the Brown to Green report finds that bi-lateral public finance for climate mitigation and adaptation in developing countries is also growing – with $ 19.6 billion pledged in 2015-16. The largest contributions came from Japan, France, Germany, the EU and the UK.

About the Brown to Green report

The Brown to Green Report is the world’s most comprehensive annual review of G20 climate action – and its transition to a low-carbon economy. The report is compiled by Climate Transparency, and is an independent, in-depth assessment that draws on a range of the latest analysis and qualitative data from leading global experts in the field.

It is largely based on the latest (2017) data on de-carbonisation and emissions. This year it has added sections and breakdowns of climate vulnerability and looks at Just Transition.

The review is based on 80 indicators around emissions, de-carbonisation, policy and finance, and presents clear summaries and sectoral comparisons at an overall G20 level, as well as drilling down to a concise, graphic national factsheet for each member state.

Download the report here

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