G20 leaders meet as their average coal emissions rise

Chief Europe Correspondent

When leaders of the world’s 20 richest countries gather in India this weekend, they will confront an unsettling fact: Their collective emissions from coal-fired electricity actually increased over the last seven years.

A fresh analysis from Europe-based climate think tank Ember found that the Group of 20’s shift to clean power is not happening fast enough to outpace a rise in coal use among some of its members.

The findings highlight countries’ conflicting agendas as they try to grow their individual economies and work together to tackle climate change.

G20 leaders, including United States President Joe Biden, are set to meet in the Indian capital of New Delhi on September 9 and 10. China’s president Xi Jinping is expected to skip the summit for the first time, according to media reports, and so is Russian President Vladimir Putin, who also missed the last group summit in Indonesia.

Although more than half of all G20 countries decreased their per capita coal emissions between 2015 (the year the Paris Climate Agreement was signed) and 2022, those reductions weren’t big enough to offset increases elsewhere in the bloc.

Australia and South Korea, the group’s top polluters, each emit over three times the global average and more than twice the G20 average, Ember found.

The G20 could make or break global efforts to accelerate the uptake of clean power, according to Ember. The summit could also offer a preview of what’s to come at the United Nations climate conference later this year (known as COP28).

“As the world’s largest economies, the G20 has the opportunity to prepare the scene at the G20 Summit and show that investing in renewables, rather than persisting with coal dependency, brings multiple benefits,” Ember said.