G20 environment ministers race to reach climate consensus

A man walks through the venue of G20 environment and climate sustainability working group meeting in Chennai on 27 July, 2023AFP

Environment ministers from G20 nations meet in India on Friday in a race against time to reach a last-minute consensus to redress the global climate crisis.

But no major breakthrough is expected as delegations were stuck on climate change adaption finance, mitigation and peaking emissions by 2025 in hectic negotiations until late Thursday.

Any agreements reached at the one-day conference in Chennai will be signed by the leaders of G20 nations -- constituting more than 80 per cent of the global GDP and CO2 emissions -- during a summit in New Delhi this September.

The meeting comes only days after the group's energy ministers were criticised for failing to agree on a roadmap to cut fossil fuels from the global energy mix.

It was seen as a blow to mitigation efforts even as climate experts blame record global temperatures for triggering floods, storms and heatwaves.

Some major oil producers -- such as Russia and Saudi Arabia -- were blamed for the lack of progress.

"Given the scale of the triple global crises, climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution, we truly have no time left to waste," Steven Guilbeault, Canada's Environment and Climate Change Minister, warned in Chennai Thursday.

With raging wildfires in Greece and a heatwave in Italy, EU Commissioner for the Environment Virginijus Sinkevicius said that there was "growing evidence on the ground of devastating climate impact" and "the livelihoods of people are being destroyed".

Most delegations were led by their environment and climate change ministers, while the US delegation was headed by Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry.

Emirati oil boss Sultan Al Jaber was also at the Chennai meeting, ahead of leading the upcoming COP28 talks.

He has been heavily criticised for his apparent conflict of interest as head of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company.

"The world needs its leaders to unite, act and deliver; and that must start with the G20," Al Jaber and UN climate change chief Simon Stiell said in a joint statement on Thursday.

"Those at the frontline of climate change need our support now, not in five years' time," they said, calling for a tripling of global renewable energy capacity by 2030.

Progress has so far been slow, with the G20 polarised by Russia's war in Ukraine and sharp divisions on key issues -- like financing the transition and its immediate impact -- between the West and developing countries.