Articles and Commentaries |
October 31, 2022

G20 and Inclusive Green Growth: Can India Take It Forward?

Written By: Rajeesh Kumar

The Group of Twenty (G20), an informal grouping of the world’s largest 20 economies, was formed in 1999 after the Asian financial crisis. The Grouping was created to enhance global policy coordination and give greater visibility to emerging economies, which are increasingly interconnected in the global economy. In its initial years, global economic growth and financial market regulation have been the sole focus of G20.[i] Many argue that G20 played a vital role during the 2008 financial crisis and probably saved the world from economic depression.[ii] It facilitated a coordinated response on fiscal stimulus, and helped improve financial regulation. It also created a supportive political environment for strong national and global actions to address the crisis.

G20 members currently account for nearly 80 per cent of the world GDP, 75 per cent of global trade, and 60 per cent of the global population.[iii] Over the years, the G20 agenda has broadened and deepened, and the Group became the premier global forum for discussing the many pressing socio-economic and development issues. While the first decade of G20 actions were at the level of Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors, its agenda has diversified significantly in the second decade at the leaders’ summit level. For instance, one of the most significant outcomes of its 2009 summit was the agreement to implement a framework for strong, sustainable, and balanced global growth.[iv]

Furthermore, the G20 growth framework seeks to ensure that growth is characterised by inclusiveness and resilience, both of which are necessary for sustainable and equitable development.[v] For instance, in 2012, under Mexican presidency, G20 introduced inclusive green growth as a cross-cutting priority on the G20 development agenda. Subsequent G20 presidencies took forward this agenda and Subsequent G20 presidencies took forward this agenda, and the members made several commitments to inclusive green growth. In 2016, for instance, the G20 committed itself to the Action Plan on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The plan aims to contribute to global efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development (AAAA).[vi]

India will assume the G20 presidency on 01 December 2022. The year-long presidency would be a watershed moment for India, a country profoundly committed to multilateralism. It also provides India a significant opportunity to drive global economic cooperation and articulate policies on various pressing socio-political issues. However, India’s presidency comes at a time of intensifying geopolitical tensions and increased anti-multilateral, anti-globalisation sentiments. Consequently, the challenge before India is to help the G20 to reinvigorate failing multilateralism and strengthen global support for post-pandemic recovery and growth. This article examines how India can utilise its G20 presidency to steer global confidence in multilateralism, focusing on G20 actions on inclusive green growth.

The article proceeds as follows. First, it explores the G20 conversations on growth and recovery and its achievements in inclusive green growth, focusing on food security, climate sustainability and public health. The second section focuses on options and priorities for India’s G20 presidency towards inclusive green growth.

G20 and Inclusive Green Growth

Green Growth attempts to provide a solution to the joint objectives of economic growth and environmental sustainability. The G20 countries have increasingly recognised the importance of green growth. In the past, G20 made several commitments to creating new economic opportunities while solving environmental and resource scarcity challenges. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused the worst economic contraction and significantly impacted the global green growth transition. The pandemic has largely relegated climate, food security and public health. The following three subsections will discuss the G20 commitments on climate change, food security and public health as a background to explore India’s options and priorities as G20 president.

Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture: Sustainable agriculture and food security remain top priorities in the G20 agenda. The G20 members are committed to promoting sustainable agriculture, which has a significant role in achieving a wide range of SDGs, including food and nutrition security. The G20 economies are central players in the global food production and supply chain system. For example, G20 nations produce nearly 80 per cent of the world’s cereals and account for a similar percentage of world agricultural exports.[vii] As a result, G20 policies related to agriculture and food security can also impact global food security and nutrition. Furthermore, G20 countries are also the major providers of development assistance for food security and nutrition, as well as key shareholders of multilateral development institutions that channel aid and non-concessional finance for investments in rural development.[viii]

G20 has shown leadership in addressing food insecurity on various occasions in the past. During the 2008 food price crisis, G20 intervened and positively responded to the crisis. These interventions later resulted in the formation an Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS) and its Rapid Response Forum (RRF), a Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), the Global Agricultural Monitoring initiative (GEOGLAM), the Tropical Agriculture Platform (TAP), Platform for Agricultural Risk Management (PARM) and AgResults.[ix] Food Security and Nutrition Framework (2014), Food Security Action Plan (2015) are other other significant development in this regard. The Framework provides “the basis for the G20 to take a long-term, integrated and sustainable food systems approach that will guide future action on food security and nutrition.”[x]

The 2016 G20 Agriculture Minister’s meeting produced the Implementation Plan and the Action Plan on Food Security and Sustainable Food Systems. Likewise, the 2018 Argentina Presidency has focused on sustainable soil management and its impact on food security and human development. In 2020, the Saudi G20 Presidency initiated the G20 Riyadh Statement to Enhance Implementation of Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems (G20 Riyadh RIAFS Statement). The Statement emphasized the G20 Members’ leadership role in promoting responsible investment to improve the sustainability, inclusiveness and resilience of agriculture and food systems.[xi] In 2021, G20 meeting culminated in the Matera Declaration on food security, nutrition and food systems, which outlines an agenda for addressing global food insecurity and putting the world back on track to end hunger within the decade.[xii] In October 2022, the first G20 Joint Finance and Agriculture Ministers (JFAMM) meeting agreed to task international organisation namely the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and World Bank in mapping global policy responses to food insecurity.

However, the Covid-19 pandemic, coupled with the Russia-Ukraine war, has deepened global food insecurity and has significantly impacted the agri-food supply chain system, particularly in developing countries. This requires G20 members to work hand in hand, make more commitments, and ensure its implementation.

Climate Sustainability: Climate change has now become one of the most significant challenges to humankind. The deteriorating global environment seriously imperils sustainable development goals. The G20 economies are responsible for nearly 75 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, they are leading in the promotion of fossil fuels, as they derive 82 per cent of their total energy supply from coal, oil and gas.[xiii] Many G20 countries are also significant producers of fossil fuels. Thus, the group members’ commitments and compliance are critical to achieving global climate commitments. Moreover, G20 has a strong economic interest in limiting global warming to 1.5°C due to climate change’s negative impact on total economic activity. Climate plays an important role in the both Finance and Sherpa track of the G20. The Finance track, which deals with “the traditional core issues of the G20, has been discussing, among others, climate finance. The Group has frequently reiterated the timely implementation of international climate agreements and commitments.

Over the last decade, the G20 has repeatedly endorsed global climate negotiations and established its own initiatives. The G20 supports the transition to more adaptable, open, and clean energy systems while acknowledging the value of collective action in addressing environmental issues and climate change. The most significant change is the augmentation of renewable energy. Nearly all G20 countries have substantially increased their renewable energy portfolio. In 2009, G20 committed to “rationalise and phase out over the medium-term inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption”.[xiv] In 2020, the G20 Summit held in Toronto reconfirmed the Group’s commitment to green recovery and sustainable global growth. The primary focus of the 2011 Summit was on promoting low-carbon development strategies to optimise the potential for inclusive green growth and to ensure sustainable development.[xv]

The 2012 Summit in Mexico established the G20 study group on climate finance to consider ways to mobilise resources and support the operationalisation of the Green Climate Fund. Commitment to phase down the production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons, the USD 3 billion campaign for the Green Climate Fund and support for the Paris Conference’s ambition were the significant outcomes of St Petersburg (2013), Brisbane (2014) and Antalya (2015) Summits. In 2015, the G20 also called for the timely submission of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) and ratification of the Paris Agreement. In Guangzhou, in 2016, the G20 Sherpas agreed on a Presidential Statement on Climate Change, committing to signing the Paris Agreement and bringing it into force as soon as possible.[xvi] The Sherpa track, which is coordinated directly by the G20 leaders, established a dedicated working group, the G20 Hamburg Climate and Energy Action Plan for Growth, on climate and energy in 2017, which became a stand-alone working group in 2018.”[xvii] Osaka Blue Ocean Vision and the G20 Implementation Framework for Actions on Marine Plastic Litter were the other significant developments during these years.

In 2020, under Saudi presidency, G20 endorsed Circular Carbon Economy (CCE) Platform, with its 4Rs framework (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Remove), recognising the key importance and ambition of reducing emissions, taking into account system efficiency and national circumstances.[xviii] In the 2021 Rome summit, in keeping with expanding agenda, the G20 shared its aspirational goal “to collectively plant one trillion trees, focusing on the most degraded ecosystems on the planet, and urged other countries to join to reach this global goal by 2030, including through climate projects, with the involvement of the private sector and civil society.”[xix] As an extension to the Sustainable Finance Roadmap of the Rome summit, under the Indonesian presidency, G20 held an exclusive meeting on climate mitigation which discussed policy and regulatory approaches to climate finance mobilisation.

Furthermore, beyond the promises, G20 members have delivered real progress in the climate change and clean energy areas. For instance, between 2015 and 2020, the share of renewables in the G20 increased by 20 per cent, reaching 28.6 percent of its power generation in 2020 and is projected to reach 29.5% in 2021.[xx] The energy sector’s carbon intensity decreased by 4 per cent across the G20 during the same period. Moreover, even when the US planned to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, the G-20 further sought to improve sustainable livelihoods with its clean energy and climate efforts. However, the post-Covid-19 data shows that the G20 countries are not on track to achieve their climate commitments and to accelerate the transition, they need to follow up on past commitments and take further steps.

Public Health: Global public health has received consistent attention of the G20 since its first leaders’ level summit in Washington DC, in 2008. Since then it made nearly 80 collective, politically binding, future-oriented commitments on health.[xxi] However, health became a prominent issue on G20 agenda in the recent past only. The outbreak of Ebola crisis in 2014 and G20 response is a case in point for Group’s work on health emergencies. In 2017, under the German Presidency, the G20 Health Working Group (HWG) was founded to create a unified international agenda on improving healthcare systems.[xxii] The Group also agreed to collectively respond to public health emergencies and tackle the challenge of antimicrobial resistance, resulting in the Global AMR Research and Development Hub.

Next year, the Argentinean Presidency introduced childhood obesity and maintained efforts to strengthen the health system and combat antimicrobial resistance (AMR).[xxiii] The summit also reinforced the need for joint commitment by G20 countries to strengthen core capacities for prevention: detection, preparedness and response to health emergencies.[xxiv] In 2019, the Japanese Presidency focused on issues such as the achievement of Universal Health Coverage, response to population ageing and management of health risk and health security.[xxv] It was in Japan, for the first time G20 Health and Finance Ministers met jointly and the Group recognised the vital link between investments in public health and economic resilience.

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, access to vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics has become the core of the G20 agenda. It led the global fight against the pandemic with a USD 10 trillion bailout package focused on addressing the economic and health crisis. In 2020, the Saudi Arabian presidency developed a new narrative for pandemic financing. It also proposed “Enabling Person-Centred Health Systems” focusing on value-based health care and digital health solutions as the central pillar of the health agenda.[xxvi] Moreover, a G20 Digital Health Taskforce was created and it submitted a Report on Digital Health Implementation Approach to Pandemic Management.[xxvii]

In 2021, under Italian leadership G20 has not only recognised the interdependency between health and wealth but also created a High-level Independent Panel on Financing the Global Commons for Pandemic Preparedness and Responses.[xxviii] The panel calls for a significant increase in public funding in the global health to plug major gaps in pandemic prevention and preparedness. It has also identified four pressing preparedness gaps: “infectious disease surveillance, resilience of national health systems, global capacity to supply and deliver vaccines and other medical countermeasures, and global governance.”[xxix] G20 members also agreed to establish a Joint Finance-Health Task Force to further strengthening a crucial coordination between Finance and Health Ministries in pandemic prevention, preparedness and response. The Group also collaborated on the COVID-19 Tools Accelerator initiative and reinforced their financial support for the “Access to COVID-19 Tools.” Moreover, global health architecture was also one of the key priorities of the current Indonesian Presidency.

Challenges, Options and Priorities for Indian Presidency

According to the Ministry of External Affairs, as G20 president, India aims to strengthen global support for developing countries’ priorities around inclusive, equitable and sustainable growth. These range from LiFE (Lifestyle For Environment), global food security, energy security, women’s empowerment, tech-enabled development in health, agriculture and climate financing, and multilateral reforms.[xxx] The year-long presidency will also focus on building a consensus within the group on actions to revitalise global economic growth in a human-centric and inclusive manner and ensure just green and digital transitions.[xxxi] However, for India, the G20 presidency will be a significant challenge for various reasons.

The most significant challenge before the Indian presidency is the persisting Russia–Ukraine conflict. The conflict is worsening the macro-economic and supply chain and the food security crises aggravated by the pandemic. Therefore, India must devise some constructive measures to urge the West and Russia to give diplomacy its legitimate space. India could use its friendly relationships with the West and Russia and its forthcoming UNSC and SCO presidencies to bring the conflicting parties to the negotiation table.

The second challenge is addressing global food insecurity. Currently, the world is off track in accomplishing SDG goals of alleviating poverty, hunger, and malnutrition. Nations are looking into becoming more self-reliant, particularly regarding food, since COVID-19 exposes the fragility of the global food and agricultural supply chain. The World Bank reported that between 75 and 95 million additional people could be living in extreme poverty in 2022 and 255 million lost their jobs because of the Covid-19 pandemic.[xxxii] In addition, the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2022 Report estimates that the pandemic has increased chronic undernourishment by 150 million people since 2019, and between 702 and 828 million people in the world were affected by hunger in 2021 and around 670 million people may still face hunger in 2030.[xxxiii] The pandemic has also demonstrated the need for sustainable agriculture to consider the interconnected relationships between people, animals and the environment.

As India takes up leadership of G20 in 2022, it would be most appropriate to bring food, nutrition and agriculture to the centre stage. India can add value to the endeavours of the G20 for food security and nutrition by providing leadership and encouraging global cooperation.[xxxiv] India is the world’s largest producer of milk, millet and pulses. Also, India is now the seventh largest exporter of agricultural products globally. Moreover, India is the top food supplier to the least developed countries (LDC), with around $5.2 billion in sales. The Joint Finance and Agriculture Ministers (JFAMM) meeting in Washington recently reaffirmed the G20 commitment to addressing challenges to global food insecurity. As president, India should ensure G20 members’ compliance with these commitments. India must also set the G20 agenda that marshals the creation of robust food supply chains while managing immediate food shortages. In 2021, India became a part of the Supply Chain Resilience Initiative (SCRI) along with Japan and Australia.

Addressing the pandemic-induced global health crisis is India’s third challenge. The G20 presidency could be an opportunity to make global health governance more democratic and evidence-informed. Given the current predicament of the World Health Organization (WHO), India could push for an Intergovernmental Panel on Pandemic Risk/Preparedness similar to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to advance scientific knowledge on pandemic risk/preparedness. Over the years, G20 Joint Finance and Health Task Force (JFHTF) has emerged as a robust global platform for discussing actions to prevent, detect, and respond to health emergencies. India should propose creating an integrated trade, health, and intellectual property approach to responding to the global health crisis under this task force.

Today India is fast emerging as a global clean energy powerhouse. India committed to net zero emissions by 2070. It has ambitious targets for 2030, installing 500 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity and reducing the emission intensity of its economy by 45 per cent. Furthermore, India is also scaling up its footprints in emerging technologies such as hydrogen, battery storage, and low-carbon steel. As G20 president, India will have multiple opportunities to share its clean energy expertise and products with the member countries. India could also play an effective role in supporting the multilateral goals of advancing research and development to produce affordable renewable energy. India has signed clean energy partnerships with G7 countries Australia, Japan, the US, and the EU. India should consider creating regional collaboration as a guiding principle of energy transitions to drive this further.

Preparing a skilled workforce is a significant concern for all the G20 nations. At the G20, India consistently supported youth’s skills and employability and agreed to tackle unemployment by sharing best practices. Furthermore, India pushed for signing a Migration and Mobility Agreement to tackle the global migration crisis. However, the post-Covid-19 data suggest that G20 nations are far from achieving their skilling and employment goals. Therefore, strengthening the skilling ecosystem and youth employability must be one of India’s core priorities.

India’s presidency also presents a golden chance to push for improving African representation in the G20 and G20’s engagements with African regional organisations. Though the G20 Compact with Africa (CwA) is ambitious, it fails to take the sustainable development agenda comprehensively and seriously. For instance, CwA misses elements such as skills development and education. With its strong skills development and capacity-building partnerships with Africa, India could address some of the shortcomings of the Compact and improve G20’s future engagement with Africa.

In short, India’s G20 presidency comes at a critical stage in world affairs, where deep-rooted fault lines emerge, and transformative solutions are needed. The catastrophic consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change are undeniable. The pandemic unprecedentedly impacted the global economy and supply chain system. Nevertheless, the global responses to the pandemic and its recovery are uneven and not inclusive. Furthermore, macroeconomic challenges in the form of rising debt, inflationary pressures, and challenges due to the Russia-Ukraine war have emerged.[xxxv] India has a vital role in addressing these challenges as a country highly committed to multilateralism and a zealous advocate of inclusiveness and equity in the global governance system. With the above-discussed priorities, India can take the lead in moving forward with the G20 agenda of inclusive green growth and sustainable development.

Author Brief Bio: Rajeesh Kumar is an Associate Fellow at the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA). He has PhD in International Organization from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Prior to joining MP-IDSA in 2016, he taught at Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi (2010-11& 2015-16) and the University of Calicut, Kerala (2007-08). His areas of research interest are International Organizations, India and Multilateralism, Global Governance, and International Humanitarian Law.

References:

[i] ‘Communique of G- 20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors’, Berlin, Germany, 15-16 December 1999, http://www.g20.utoronto.ca/1999/1999communique.pdf

[ii]Jean-Paul Fitoussi and Joseph E. Stiglitz, The G20 and the Recovery and Beyond: An Agenda for Global Governance for the Twenty-First Century, https://policydialogue.org/files/publications/samples/The_G20_and_Recovery_and_Beyond.pdf; https://www.ecb.europa.eu/pub/conferences/shared/pdf/g20framework/Keynote_Turalay.pdf?edff74ffbc8baa7e40d93a445ead7067

[iii] ‘About the G20’ https://www.g20.org/about-the-g20/

[iv] See G20 Framework for Strong, Sustainable and Balanced Growth,

[v] Colin I. Bradford and Wonhyuk Lim (ed.), Global Leadership in Transition: Making the G20 More Effective and Responsive, Washington, Brookings, 2011.

[vi] G20 Action Plan on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, https://www.b20germany.org/fileadmin/user_upload/G20_Action_Plan_on_the_2030_Agenda_for_Sustainable_Development.pdf

[vii] G20 and Low income developing Country Framework, https://www.oecd.org/g20/topics/development/G20-Low-Income-Developing-Countries-Framework.pdf

[viii] Targeting G20 Investments in Agriculture to End Rural Hunger, https://www.g20-insights.org/policy_briefs/targeting-g20-investments-agriculture-end-rural-hunger/

[ix] G20 Food Security and Nutrition Framework, https://dwgg20.org/app/uploads/2021/09/g20-food-security-and-nutrition-framework.pdf

[x] G20 Food Security and Nutrition Framework, https://dwgg20.org/app/uploads/2021/09/g20-food-security-and-nutrition-framework.pdf

[xi] G20 Riyadh Statement to Enhance Implementation of Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems, https://sherpag20indonesia.ekon.go.id/storage/riyadh/other-doc/17-riafs-statement.pdf

[xii] Swati Malhotra and Rob Vos, G20 Matera Declaration calls for investing more and better in food systems to achieve Zero Hunger, https://www.ifpri.org/blog/g20-matera-declaration-calls-investing-more-and-better-food-systems-achieve-zero-hunger

[xiii] Japan’s G20 Presidency: Innovation for Climate Action, https://www.germanwatch.org/en/16598

[xiv] Climate sustainability, https://www.oecd.org/g20/topics/climate-sustainability-and-energy/

[xv] Angela Solikova, G20 and the Ongoing Fight to Contain Climate Change, G20 Digest, Vol. 1, No.5, March-May 2020.

[xvi] 2016 Second G20 Sherpa Meeting Opens in Guangzhou, http://www.g20chn.org/English/China2016/SherpaMeeting/201604/t20160408_2233.html

[xvii] Japan’s G20 Presidency: Innovation for Climate Action, https://www.germanwatch.org/sites/default/files/Japan%27s%20G20%20Presidency_Innovation%20for%20Climate%20Action.pdf

[xviii] ‘Leaders’ Declaration,’ G20 Riyadh Summit November 21 – 22, 2020, https://www.consilium.europa.eu/media/46883/g20-riyadh-summit-leaders-declaration_en.pdf

[xix] ‘G20 Rome Leaders’ Declaration’,

Rome, October 31, 2021, http://www.g20.utoronto.ca/2021/211031-declaration.html

[xx] Emissions are rising across the G20, again – warns a report, https://iesr.or.id/en/emissions-are-rising-across-the-g20-again-warns-a-report

[xxi] ‘G20 Performance on Health’, https://www.g20-insights.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/g20-performance-japan-health-1586886752.pdf

[xxii] https://www.bundesgesundheitsministerium.de/en/international/g20-health.html

[xxiii] http://www.g20.utoronto.ca/2018/2018-10-04-health.html

[xxiv] Declaration: G20 Meeting of Health Ministers, October 4, 2018, Mar del Plata, Argentinahttp://www.g20.utoronto.ca/2018/2018-10-04-health.html

[xxv] https://www.japan.go.jp/g20japan/index.html

[xxvi] G20 Health Ministers’ Declaration

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, November 19, 2020, http://www.g20.utoronto.ca/2020/2020-g20-health-1119.html

[xxvii] Ibid.

[xxviii] https://www.mef.gov.it/en/ufficio-stampa/comunicati/2021/The-G20-establishes-a-High-Level-Independent-Panel-on-financing-the-Global-Commons-for-Pandemic-Preparedness-and-Response-00001/

[xxix] https://g20.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/G20-FHTF-Financing-Gaps-for-PPR-WHOWB-Feb-10_Final.pdf

[xxx] ‘India’s forthcoming G20 Presidency,’ September 13, 2022, https://www.mea.gov.in/press-releases.htm?dtl/35700/Indias_forthcoming_G20_Presidency#:~:text=Whilst%20our%20G20%20priorities%20are,ranging%20from%20health%2C%20agriculture%20and

[xxxi] India’s G20 Presidency to focus on revival of growth, just green and digital transitions, https://www.ris.org.in/en/node/3511#:~:text=India’s%20year%2Dlong%20G20%20Presidency,achieve%20Sustainable%20Development%20Goals%20by

[xxxii] ‘Pandemic, prices, and poverty’, https://blogs.worldbank.org/opendata/pandemic-prices-and-poverty

[xxxiii] ‘The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World’, https://www.fao.org/publications/sofi/2022/en/

[xxxiv] Why Food, Agriculture and Nutrition should be at the Top of the Agenda for G20 nations? G20 Digest Vol. 1, No. 2, 2021, pp 35-38.

[xxxv] Dirk Willem Te Velde and Prachi Agarwal, ‘Leveraging the Global Macroeconomic Environment for Recovery and Growth: Opportunities for G20 Under India’s Presidency,’ https://www.orfonline.org/research/opportunities-for-g20-under-indias-presidency/

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