G20 climate talks: Common ground established on some issues, but no agreement on emissions reduction

Singapore was present at the talks as a guest country to this year's G20.

Gawain Pek | August 14, 2023, 04:09 PM

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Yet another round of climate talks ended in a deadlock with no new agreements on emissions reduction among the world's largest economies, although consensus was reached on other environmental issues.

Member nations of the Group of 20 (G20) failed to align on emissions reduction targets after three days of discussions.

The discussions took place in Chennai, India, over three days from Jul. 26 to Jul. 28 and culminated in the Environment and Climate Sustainability Ministers' Meeting (ECSMM).

They are part of this year's G20 forum.

Singapore's Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu was present at the meeting, alongside officials from the Ministry for Sustainability and the Environment (MSE).

No consensus on emissions reductions

In a Facebook post shared by Fu, the minister noted that the G20 members were unable to land a communique at the meeting "despite the best efforts of the G20 India Presidency".

In an outcome document released following the conclusion of the ECSMM, language pointing to targets for emissions reduction was missing.

Instead, G20 members noted "with concern" that global ambition and implementation to address climate change remain "insufficient" to achieve the Paris Agreement goals, according to the document.

The lack of consensus is also apparent in the clauses relating to the chair's summary, noting that only "some G20 members" emphasised the need for the peaking of emissions no later than 2025 and 60 per cent emissions reductions by 2035.

Developed versus developing nations

According to a Reuters report, a fissure arising from the differing demands of developed and developing countries led to the impasse.

Developed countries wanted mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions to limit global warming to 1.5oC.

However, developing nations opposed this, arguing that emissions reduction targets limited their ability to develop infrastructure and grow, Reuters wrote, citing and Indian official.

Reuters further reported that China and Saudi Arabia also stopped short of making commitments at the talks.

Some countries also attempted to walk back on past climate pledges, according to Virginijus Sinkevičius, the European Union's commissioner for the Environment, Reuters wrote.

Sinkevičius remarked that the group was asked to "make bold choices", but collectively "failed to achieve that", Reuters added.

Consensus on other environmental issues

Consensus and cooperation were not entirely absent from the ECSMM.

According to Fu, there was "common ground on many issues", such as water resource management, combating plastic pollution and ecosystem restoration.

On emissions, the outcome document also suggests that climate ambitions by G20 nations might be raised in time to come.

The G20 nations noted in the document the global climate stocktake slated to conclude at COP28, and that they will contribute to a successful stocktake.

The nations committed to taking into account the outcomes of the global stocktake and Article 4.3 of the Paris Agreement for their next submission of national climate pledges.

Article 4.3 states that each successive national climate pledge, known as "nationally-determined contributions", will represent a "progression" beyond a country's current one.

Singapore is guest country at G20

Fu and MSE officials were present at the ECSMM because Singapore is a guest country at this year's G20.

Each year, the G20 presidency invites guest countries and international organisations to participate in the proceedings of the G20.

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Singapore has been regularly invited as a G20 guest country in the past, from 2010 to 2011 and 2013 to 2023.

Singapore also participated in last year's G20 ministerial climate talks, which was organised for the first time and was hosted by Indonesia.

Alongside Singapore, this year's guest countries are Bangladesh, Egypt, Mauritius, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Oman, Spain and the United Arab Emirates.

According to Indian daily The Hindu, guest countries are like any other participants in the G20 process.

"We hope that G20 Leaders will be able to deliver a strong and united commitment on climate at the Leaders’ Summit in September," Fu remarked in her post-meeting Facebook post.


Top image via G20 India