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G20 Progress on Clean Energy, but Not on Fossil Fuels

G20 Progress on Clean Energy, but Not on Fossil Fuels

Olivier Le Moal/

At their 2023 meeting in India, the leaders of the Group of 20 (G20) countries responsible for approximately 80 percent of the planet's greenhouse gas emissions have agreed to triple the use of renewable energy and allocate more funds toward managing climate change-related disasters. However, they did not reach a consensus on phasing out fossil fuels, especially coal, a major contributor to carbon emissions. The G20 did not give specifics on how policies and targets might be amended or how to pay for the estimated $4 trillion a year needed for the clean energy transition. The declaration by the G20 countries sets the stage for more discussions at the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference, commonly known as COP28, later this year in the United Arab Emirates.

The G20 announcement has sparked discussions on the feasibility and implications of replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy sources. Alternatives to fossil fuels exist, such as energy derived from solar, wind, geothermal, hydroelectric or biofuel sources, but the replacement of fossil fuels is complex. Significant challenges remain in terms of the scalability, storage capacity and dependability of renewable energy. For instance, the production of solar and wind energy is dependent on the weather, and storing excess energy for later use requires substantial technological improvements. Significant investments are needed to overcome these limitations.

There are compelling reasons to reduce the use of fossil fuels. Their combustion results in the release of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, leading to climate change and global warming. Additionally, extracting and using fossil fuels create environmental problems like air and water pollution and biodiversity loss. However, completely replacing all forms of fossil fuel use in the near term may not be feasible. A combination of strategies, including energy efficiency, conservation and the development of new technologies, is necessary to transition to a sustainable and low-carbon energy system.