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G20 Summit Puts Renewable Energy Goals at Risk Despite Recent Progress

On July 22, the G20, an international forum with the world’s largest national economies, failed to reach a consensus on renewable energy goals during an economic summit in India due to opposition from fossil fuel-producing countries, even as the world already faces the consequences of climate change. This is a major setback for the climate movement, as the G20 releases 75 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and represents 85 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP).

Picture of national flags of each G20 country and a large sign on greenery.
India hosted the G20 economic summit. (Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Fossil-fuel-producing countries such as South Africa, China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia opposed the goal of tripling renewable energy capacities by 2030 by arguing that “fossil fuels currently continue to play a significant role in the global energy mix, eradication of energy poverty, and in meeting the growing energy demand.”


The lack of international action means that it’s on individual nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Last summer, the United States started what environmentalists hope will be a green legislation trend by passing the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), trying to reduce around 40% of emissions by 2030.


Since Congress passed the IRA last year, companies and the government have built about 80 new clean energy facilities, invested billions into wind and solar power, grown solar jobs and panel sales, and facilitated huge discounts to encourage solar development. However, while the IRA is a huge step forward in reducing carbon and fossil fuel emissions, it is still nowhere near reaching the goal of reducing 40% of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Supporting growing energy demands, especially as electric vehicles and machines take over from gas or oil-powered ones, requires a significant investment that the IRA does not provide.


Although solar and wind energy are destined to be the future of renewable energy, many state and local governments remain skeptical, repealing numerous proposals for renewable energy projects. They argue that wind and solar farms are unnecessary, take up space, and add traffic and noise. The debate over enacting policies to reduce emissions has divided both Republicans and Democrats within their own parties. For example, within the Republican party, Senator Lindsey Graham supports the electrical vehicle growth while House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has repeatedly called to repeal the renewable energy credits within the IRA. Additionally, many states have rejected proposed renewable projects — in Ohio, a deeply divided state, over an eighth of all counties have rejected or banned wind and solar projects.


How can you help?

Clearly, we can’t wait for world leaders to make up their minds on their own — the G20 showed that on Saturday yet again. It falls on us to take action: whether it’s through petitioning or calling your local representatives to join grassroots organizations, we need to be able to slow down climate change before we cause irreversible damage to the world. Below are some further links if you wish to be more involved in stopping climate change.


Personal Actions To Take: https://www.un.org/en/actnow



Citations

“G20 Countries Fail to Reach Agreement on Cutting Fossil Fuels.” The Guardian, July 22, 2023. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/jul/22/g20-countries-fail-to-reach-agreement-on-cutting-fossil-fuels.


Civillini, Matteo. “G20 Divisions over Key Climate Goals Pile Pressure on COP28 Hosts.” Climate Home News, July 24, 2023. https://www.climatechangenews.com/2023/07/24/g20-divisions-over-key-climate-goals-piles-pressure-on-cop28-hosts/.


Haines, Andy. “Expert Comment - over 40% of the World’s Population Are ‘Highly Vulnerable’ to Climate.” London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, March 1, 2022. https://www.lshtm.ac.uk/newsevents/news/2022/expert-comment-over-40-worlds-population-are-highly-vulnerable-climate.


Singh, Sarita, and Sudarshan Varadhan. “Exclusive: Russia, Saudi Oppose G20 Proposal to Triple Green Energy Capacity.” Reuters, July 21, 2023. https://www.reuters.com/sustainability/climate-energy/russia-saudi-oppose-g20-proposal-triple-green-energy-capacity-2023-07-21/.


O’Malley, Isabella, and Michael Phillis. “One Year Old, US Climate Law Is Already Turbocharging Clean Energy Technology.” AP News, July 24, 2023. https://apnews.com/article/inflation-reduction-act-renewable-energy-policy-economy-d5b0a7f15659930c6c15f0d180b193e8.


Stein, Jeff. “Small-Town GOP Officials Are Torn over Biden’s Clean Energy Cash.” The Washington Post, July 24, 2023. https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2023/07/23/biden-green-energy-local-republicans/.


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