India, with support from China, is advocating for “multiple energy pathways” to be included in the G20's upcoming communique, in order to allow countries to choose their own roadmap towards cutting carbon emissions. This would give nations the freedom to use different resources, including coal, as they transition to net zero emissions. The move is a response to a proposal by wealthy nations to set a deadline for ending the use of coal, which India opposed at a recent G20 Energy Transitions Working Group meeting.
Coal accounts for around 75% of India's annual electricity generation, and the country has long defended its use of the fuel. According to Indian officials, the phrase “multiple pathways” is in line with the 2015 Paris Agreement on combating climate change, which recognises “common but differentiated responsibilities, under different national circumstances”. They argue that rich countries overlook this principle when they demand an end to coal usage.
“India is not in a position to completely phase out fossil fuels, especially coal, due to its dependence on it for electricity generation,” said one Indian government official. “We will continue to use coal, but with measures to reduce emissions.”
India's position is supported by China, which is also one of the world's largest coal consumers. At the G20 meeting, China argued that it cannot put a timeline on ending fossil fuel dependence and would want to put “all” its available resources to optimum use.
India and China, despite their long-standing border disputes, have often taken common positions at international climate change negotiations. The two countries have frequently been criticised by Western nations for their perceived lack of action on climate change, but both have argued that they should be given the freedom to develop their economies using fossil fuels, in line with the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities”.
The G20 summit, which will be held in Delhi in September, will bring together leaders from the world's largest economies, including U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping. In the run-up to the summit, officials from the participating countries are meeting to finalise the group's position on global issues, including climate change.
As the world grapples with the urgent need to reduce carbon emissions, India and China's push for “multiple energy pathways” highlights the ongoing tension between developed and developing countries over how best to tackle the problem. As Indian officials have argued, it is essential that any roadmap towards net zero emissions takes into account the unique circumstances and needs of individual nations. As the world looks to transition away from fossil fuels, it is important that this transition is just and equitable, and that the voices of all nations are heard in the process.