As G20 Emissions Continue to Grow, India Among Few Countries on Track to Hit Targets

Actions by G20 nations to limit CO2 emissions are key to keep global warming in check as these nations account for about 75% of global greenhouse gas emissions. 

New Delhi: In 2018, energy related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in G20 countries did not decrease but instead grew at 1.8%, a new report has found. These include CO2 emissions – which are the single largest contributor to green house gas emissions – from electricity, heating, industry and transport.

While this growth rate is lower than the 2.2% that G20 countries had registered in 2017, it is above the average of 1.4% attained between 2005 and 2016. The report notes that the trend of growing emissions in the last two years is a cause for concern.

None of the 20 biggest economies in the world are on an emissions pathway that would limit global temperature rise to below 1.5-degree celsius above pre industrial levels – the aspirational target under the 2015 Paris agreement.

The report, titled ‘Brown to Green’, was authored by an international research collaboration of 14 organisation put together by Climate Transparency – a global consortium of NGOs who, from time to time, release climate related information including the annual ‘Brown to Green’ report.

Actions by G20 nations to limit CO2 emissions are key to keep global warming in check as these nations account for about 75% of global greenhouse gas emissions. 

Also read: G20 Summit: World leaders Agree on Climate Deal

The Climate Transparency report says that while renewable energy supply grew by 5% in 2018, 82% of the energy in G20 countries is still generated using fossil fuels.

In 2018, the generation of energy using fossil fuels grew in nine of the 20 countries, including in India, led primarily by increased demand for power and growing transport emissions.

It has also identified transport as one of the key areas where not enough is being done to reduce emissions. Currently, emissions in the transport sector account for about 20% of all the green house gas emissions in G20 countries.

The United States of America has the highest per capita emissions in the transport sector, while India has the lowest, even though India’s emissions grew by 28% in 2018.

Coal is used to generate almost 40% of electricity worldwide. Photo: Reuters

The sale of fuel inefficient SUVs actually grew between 2017 and 2018 – from 33% of all car sales to 38%. This has pretty much cancelled out any gains from increased fuel efficiency in smaller cars.

The aviation industry which produces about 2% of global CO2 emissions and 12% of global transport emissions also comes under the scanner as flying is the most carbon intensive form of travel.

India has the lowest per capita aviation emissions while Australia has the highest – 53 times more than India’s. The report notes that not enough is being done by G20 nations to address this problem at a time when the passenger numbers are growing and are expected to double by 2037.

Also read: A Robin Hood Climate Tax for India

The report estimates that in order to stay below 1.5-degree celsius, G20 countries will need to cut emissions by at least 45% – from 2010 levels – by 2030. The transition to cleaner sources of energy should not end there and the top 20 economies need to attain net zero green house gas emissions by 2070.

But, G20 countries are not yet on this path even when some of the countries are on track to meet their national determined contributions (NDCs) – which are the self-declared emission reduction targets under the Paris agreement.

This, the report claims, is because the NDCs themselves are too weak. “Many of the current 2030 climate targets under the Paris Agreement (NDCs) are too weak, with about half of the G20 countries projected to meet or overachieve their inadequate NDCs. There is plenty of room for enhanced ambition among all G20 countries,” the report notes.

India – whose per capita green house gas emissions are about a fourth of the average of G20 nations – is one of the countries which is on track to achieve its NDC primarily driven by its efforts on the renewable energy front.

Also read: Despite Climate Pledges, G20 Countries Boost Subsidy for Coal-Fired Power Plants

But, here too is a word of caution as 75% of India’s energy is still generated using fossil fuels, the report notes. It also adds that the renewable energy sector may not be doing as well as the government of India has hoped as it only managed to add about 60% of the intended capacity in 2018.

Overall, the growth of renewables in 2018 was slower than the pace required for India to achieve the impressive target of 175 gigawatt hours (GWh) by 2022. “It now looks increasingly likely that this target will not be met,” it says.

Another worry with respect to India’s emissions reduction performance is that 78% of electricity in the country is still generated using coal. But the report recognises that because India is a relatively low-income nation (with the lowest per capita income among the G20 nations) and given that a significant population is employed in and around coal mines, the move to cleaner energy will have to be a just transition.

But even as the report counts India as one of the pioneers in emission reduction efforts, it wants it – like all other G20 nations – to do more.