September 9, 2023 - The G20 members late Thursday agreed to make an effort towards the “phasedown of unabated coal power”, staying with the text of the Bali declaration on the issue. This was decided at the Sherpa-level deliberations that aim to finalise the text for the Leaders’ Declaration.
India’s proposal to expand it to “phase-down of fossil fuel” ran into stiff opposition from Saudi Arabia and Russia, people aware of the matter told The Economic Times.
The “phasedown of coal power”, agreed on in earlier declarations, is in the context of energy efficiency and in line with national circumstances, and does not impinge on India’s energy security, the people said.
The cue was taken from the Bali declaration where the phrase “phasedown of unabated coal power” found agreement among all members. The language has also been used earlier in the UNFCCC Glasgow Climate Pact and the Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan. Unabated coal power is generally understood to mean coal power without carbon capture utilisation and storage.
There was no mention of a phasedown of coal power at the outcome of the G20 Energy Transition ministerial meeting in July, a prelude to the leaders’ summit.
The Energy Transition Working Group had discussed the nuances of phasedown of fossil fuel for their joint outcome. Facing opposition from Saudi Arabia, Russia, China and South Africa, the text, among other paragraphs, was moved to ‘Chair’s Summary’ instead.
The four countries had also disagreed on the reference to the role of renewable energy in energy transitions and tripling of renewable energy capacities.
However, there was a fresh attempt at the Sherpa meeting to include phasedown of ‘fossil fuel’, and triple the renewable energy capacity, among others, in the Leaders’ Declaration, they said.
During the deliberations, attempts were made to use alternatives to “coal power”, but they were not acceptable to other members, one of the persons said.
Some suggestions were made by members like France to use “phasedown of greenhouse gas emitting sources, including coal” and Russia for using a “phasedown of easily replaceable emission intensive fuel” which didn’t find consensus.
India has to continue using coal for a long time even though it has been leading in the addition of clean-energy capacities, another person said. The G20 energy ministers meeting in July had accepted encouraging mature clean energy technologies including carbon capture utilisation and storage (CCUS). CCUS can be used to capture carbon generated during coal-based electricity generation, but it is still very expensive. Thermal power, mostly coal, still forms 56% of India’s installed capacity and is the base load for the country’s electricity requirement even as India has set ambitious targets to bring down emissions.
Goldman Sachs, in a report in July, said it expects 23 GW incremental coal capacity addition requirement above the government’s target of 48GW by FY32, to meet peak shortages.