The Group of 20 (G20) major economies concluded its four-day meeting in Goa with a lack of consensus on the issue of phasing down fossil fuels. The main sticking point emerged as some countries objected to the idea of reducing fossil fuel usage, proposing instead the exploration of carbon capture, utilization, and storage technologies, as well as other abatement options. Despite efforts to find common ground, the G20 could not agree on a unified approach, resulting in an outcome document and a chair summary.
Divided Opinions on Fossil Fuel Phase-Down
RK Singh, the Union Minister for Power and New and Renewable Energy, acknowledged that fossil fuels were one of the key points of contention among various issues that lacked unanimity. While a significant portion of the G20 countries favoured a phasing down of unabated fossil fuel use, others held differing views, suggesting that abatement and removal technologies could address environmental concerns. As a result, the matter found its way into the chair summary due to the absence of consensus.
Outcome Document and Chair Summary Adopted
In light of the lack of agreement on certain paragraphs, the ministers of the G20 adopted an outcome document and a chair summary. Out of 29 paragraphs in total, 22 received complete agreement, while the remaining seven constituted the chair summary. The summary acknowledged the continuing importance of fossil fuels in the global energy mix, citing their role in eradicating energy poverty and meeting the growing energy demand. Nevertheless, the divergent views on phasing down unabated fossil fuel usage remained unresolved.
Climate Finance Mobilization Uncertainty
During the G20 meeting, developed countries faced calls to fulfil their commitment of jointly mobilizing $100 billion per year by 2020 and continuing through to 2025. The mobilization of climate finance was intended to support meaningful mitigation actions with transparent implementation. However, differing views among member countries reflected an ongoing lack of consensus on this crucial issue.
India's Initiative for Transnational Electricity Grid
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi revealed that the country has received "encouraging" responses from neighbouring nations regarding its proposal for a joint effort in building a transnational electricity grid to enhance regional energy security. The proposal involves establishing grid interconnectivity for power trading with Southeast Asian countries through Myanmar and Thailand. This initiative is part of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), which envisions a grid connection spanning from India and Bangladesh to Myanmar and Thailand.
Leveraging Domestic Renewable Capacity for Regional Engagement
The ambitious plan seeks to build a 3,000-kilometer-long power grid by interconnecting existing national and regional grids. The project is not only aimed at enhancing energy security but also serves as a diplomatic tool, leveraging India's growing domestic renewables capacity to foster regional engagement. By connecting large-scale solar power plants, wind farms, and rooftop solar supplies, the initiative aims to provide a consistent and reasonably-priced electricity supply across national boundaries.
A Counter to China's Diplomatic Influence
Beyond energy security, India's transnational power grid project is seen as a strategic move to counter China's growing diplomatic influence in South Asia and West Asia regions. The interconnection plan is expected to optimize energy infrastructure utilization, meet varying demand and supply situations among member countries, and potentially lead to price rationalization, particularly in peaking tariffs. Moreover, it promises an uninterrupted electricity supply for consumers across participating nations.
While energy-deficit countries like Bangladesh and Myanmar are likely to show interest in joining the transnational grid arrangement, energy-surplus countries may have reservations about committing to such a project. Despite the encouraging responses from neighbouring countries, realizing the ambitious power grid plan will require navigating various challenges and garnering consensus among participating nations.