India’s G20 Presidency – A shorter path to fulfill SDGs amidst the climate change
December 2022 witnessed a major breakthrough for India in the contemporary global scenario as India assumed the G20 presidency for the very first time. Since 2021, India has been an active player in the troika (a group of the current, previous and incoming presidencies) along to ensure consistency and continuity in the G20 Agenda.
India’s presidency will not be a mere transition of roles, rather a leap forward to fulfilling leadership roles among the emerging economies in the G20, which already constitutes 80% of the world’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and two thirds of the world population. While our focus regions and priorities during the presidency is getting shaped, the themes of sustainable growth and inclusivity is a focus area, especially in the backdrop of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which must be attained by 2030. Also, accelerating theSDGs is one among the seven selected task forces during India’s presidency.
Even in the past, inclusive and sustainable growth has been a part of the Indian government agenda; the 11th Five Year Plan (2007-12) focussed on inclusive growth. As a continuum to various steps taken for sustainability and inclusivity, the Union Budget 2022 also charted out the development plan for the next 25 years termed as ‘India’s Amritkaal’ to move towards a futuristic, prosperous, inclusive and developed society, distinguished by a human-centric approach at its core.
In this context, India’s G20 presidency can expedite our commitments to various SDGs, the efforts for which have already been initiated by the government holistically. During India’s presidency, the G20 troika will be constituted by the promising trio of India, Brazil and Indonesia with immense potential to balance mutual growth interests while also continuing the G20 Agenda. Being the fastest economies of the world, the trio can work for eradication of poverty, ensuring health and well-being in the region to fulfil SDG 1, 2 and 3 (No poverty, hunger and ensuring good health). However, the path to progress in the midst of rising temperatures and shifting climate patterns is not easy.
According to the World Bank, parts of South Asia have become significantly drier since the 1970s with an increased number of drought events. Crop yields are also expected to fall significantly by the 2040s in the region. For a monsoon fed agricultural economy like India, this can significantly affect income and food security with spill-over effects on good health and wellbeing. Thus, technology led models such as increased focus on research and development (R&D) in climate resilient cropping and organic farming techniques, development of drought-resistant crops, scientific assistance to farmers etc is the need of the hour. Such measures will reinstate our goal for the first three SDGs while also paving the way for SDG 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure).
The rise of neglected tropical diseases and spill-over of zoonotics to human beings is another health challenge. The World Health Organization (WHO) warns of potential rise in disease outbreaks as the rising temperatures provide a conducive ground for infectious vectors to thrive. In the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic, there have been collaborative efforts to fight the health crises through various initiatives such as supply of oxygen concentrators, humanitarian assistance through Vaccine Maitri programme led by India. As a president to the club, India can lobby with the major economies to fulfil the rising demand for a pandemic treaty. The government could also work towards institutional reformation in WHO, our health watchdog to bring in more transparency and inclusivity in its functioning. Also, India and Brazil’s troika grouping will boost their existing efforts for UNSC reforms in G4 club. Multilateral reforms like these will cater to the fulfilment of SDG16 (peace, justice and strong institutions) in the long run.
Also, the IPCC 6th assessment report has warned of catastrophic climatic events that are set to affect the Indian landscape in the form of sea level rise, urban flooding and heatwave events. Fishermen communities along India’s 7,500 km coastline are highly susceptible to the annual vagaries of climate change in the form of frequent tropical cyclones, cloud burst events and reduced fish yield.
In this light, the presidency role must be utilised to extend the reach of Indian led initiatives such as the International Solar Alliance (ISA) and the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI). In the first summit of International Solar Alliance in 2018, Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi mooted the idea of “One Sun, One World, One Grid” (OSOWOG), to build a global green energy grid in partnership with the Green Grid Initiative (GGI) of the United Kingdom. The upcoming presidency tenure will open up the G20 club for India to assume leadership roles for realising the mandate of OSOWOG, thus paving paths for the fulfilment of SDG 7 ( affordable and clean energy).
Forest and bush fires aren’t uncommon in the backdrop of a changing climate. There have been devastating fire events in Australia, Indonesia and in the Amazon forests in Brazil. These were triggered by causes such as rising temperatures, effect of El Nino clubbed with anthropogenic land use changes. Mutual vulnerabilities offer scope for collective mitigation in the form of enhanced fire-fighting techniques. According to the State of Forests Report 2021 released by the Forest Survey of India, around 20% of India’s forests are prone to fires which implies the scope of mutual climate cooperation led by Indian leadership among these nations. Every single initiative is significant for
SDG13 (climate action) and SDG 15 (life on land) as little drops make the mighty ocean.
Again, while moving towards achieving the goal of SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities), the rising climate threat is also driving our cities to urban disasters like frequent floods and droughts, heatwave events etc. In 2021, parts of Canada and the United States witnessed an unusual rise in temperatures driven by a phenomenon called the heat dome leading to large-scale fatalities. India is no different with exponential rise in heat events in recent times. According to the World Bank, India could witness heatwaves with temperatures exceeding human survivability limits and is set to experience heat waves that could be 25 times longer by 2035. India’s presidency thus offers an avenue for collaborations with G20 members showcasing best practices in urban resilience like Japan, China, Germany to name a few.
The aforementioned issues if not addressed properly can widen inequalities in the form of climate refugees, gender inequalities and increased poverty rates in urban spaces across the world posing a threat to the fulfilment of SDG5 (gender equality) and SDG10 (reduced inequalities) and also slowdown India’s Amrit Kaal goal.
India has reiterated its goal for sustainability in the 2022 G20 Bali summit when PM Modi emphasized on sustainability while also stressing on the need to foster universal brotherhood spirit through the theme of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. Thus, the PM’s vision of the presidency as an ambitious, inclusive, decisive and action-oriented tenure can be made more fruitful with the faster realisation of the sustainable development goals.