G20, Climate Change and Sustainable Development

In 2017, I participated in the selection of Indonesian delegation for the Y20 Summit in Berlin. Although I was unable to pass the final round of interviews, I was grateful that I have been chosen as the finalists from 1000+ registrants. Below is the short essay/position paper I wrote for the selection round, writing about the G20, Climate Change and Sustainable Development.


The G20 and its member countries are a formidable force, not just economically but also in terms of climate impact. The G20 represents 74% of the world’s GDP, but they also represent 77% of the world’s annual carbon output. As such, an effective approach by the G20 to reduce its carbon footprint would be critical to reaching the global goals of the Paris Agreement as well as the Sustainable Development Goals. Moreover, actions done by the G20 countries can set a precedence for other countries outside the G20 to benchmark and follow.

As outlined in the G20 Action Plan for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, it is imperative for G20 countries to promote sustainable development for all. However, despite this common goal, countries have different national priorities, hence the principle of “common but differentiated responsibility”. Thus, different approaches must be applied to different groups of countries – in which this essay categorises into two groups – to accommodate the varying priorities.

For developing nations, the drive is on strong economic growth to fulfil the basic needs for citizens. Aligning this to climate change goals, this economic drive must be realized through “green growth” – achieving economic growth in a climate-friendly manner, among others by using greener energy sources. This will ensure energy security and sustainability, achieve their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) whist also opening opportunities for partnership with international organizations or developed countries with tighter environmental requirements for aid.

Developed nations, on the other hand, set their goals on improving the efficiency of their energy-intensive economies, and lead the global transition to renewable energy. With greater access to capital, renewable energy industries have begun to flourish in developed nations, allowing them to become thought and technology leaders in the global proliferation of renewable energy.

Understanding the two different objectives yet aiming to create a cooperation within the member states, and in line with the 2016 G20 Voluntary Action Plan on Renewable Energy, articles 48-49 of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, and the efforts of the UNFCCC-established Green Climate Fund, we support a partnership between the public and private sectors to promote the development and use of renewable energy. We propose to build on the 2016 G20 Voluntary Action Plan and establish a G20 “Green Zone”, to:

  • Attract green investments through fiscal incentives, such as a reduction in applied taxes for investments on renewable energy projects
  • Encourage sharing and replication of best practices for renewable energy among member states
  • Support the transfer of technology for renewable energy

Some member states have individually introduced similar fiscal incentives in the past. Member states can learn from the success of China in attracting almost 30% of the world’s renewable energy investment in 2014 through tax reductions and subsidies. A joint effort by the G20 as opposed to individual countries would amplify the potential for success, especially with the outsized influence of the G20 on the world’s economy and climate.


Cahyawardhani, 2017

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