A Just Transition: G20 energy ministers outline the way forward

In the run up to India-led G20 Leaders’ Summit 2023, the Energy Transitions Minis­terial Meeting (ETMM) concluded last month with a forward-looking outcome document that emphasises the acceleration of a just and equitable energy transition. While member natio­ns unanimously recognised the need for addressing technology gaps, ensuring low-cost financing and promoting energy efficiency, among other things as co­mponents of energy transitions, discussions on tripling renewable energy capa­city and phasing out coal were the poin­ts of divergence. Under the Indian Presi­de­ncy, the central theme of G20 in 2023 is “One Earth, One Fa­mily, One Future”, with climate change mitigation at the heart of India’s agenda.

Outcome document of ETMM

Energy security and diversified supply chains: Given the critical role of certain minerals, materials and technologies in energy transition, the G20 energy ministers recognised the need to maintain reliable and sustainable supply chains of such minerals and materials, semiconductors and related technologies. They agreed to support voluntary and mutual technology diffusion, skill development, increasing scale of beneficiation at the source, circularity and sustainable alternatives to maintain the supply chain for these minerals. The G20 group also re­cog­nised the role of regional/cross-border pow­er systems integration in impro­ving energy security and ensuring universal access to affordable and sustainable energy. It em­pha­sised the need for inc­re­ased public and private invest­men­ts, and support from international finance institutions to developing countries for the development of regio­nal/ cro­­ss-border interconnections.

Universal energy access and just, affordable and inclusive energy transition pathways: The group recognised ac­ce­ss to affordable and sustainable en­ergy as a moral imperative and a basic human need. It is committed to accelerating progress in clean cooking, electricity access and the eradication of energy poverty. The group also aims to enhance collaborations and partnerships to promote zero- and low-emission te­ch­­nologies, and drive the creation of new jobs and social dialogue to address the needs of wo­rkers. It also supports and encour­a­ges a stro­nger focus on women empo­w­er­ment and gender equality in energy transitions at every level.

Energy efficiency and responsible consumption: The group recognises the role of energy efficiency and energy savings as the “first fuel” and is committed to str­engthening global efforts on energy efficiency through international enga­ge­ments such as the G20 Energy Efficiency Lea­ding Programme, Energy Efficiency Hub and Clean Energy Ministerial. The­se platforms facilitate the sharing of best practices and knowledge as well as the promotion of technology tra­nsfer and circular approaches. It aims to accelerate the uptake of energy saving policies and measures such as the adoption of su­per-effi­cient appliances, optimisation of demand for cooling and heating, and scale-up of commercially available energy efficiency technologies.

Addressing technology gaps for energy transitions: While the energy ministers reiterated the significance of accelerating the dep­loyment of mature clean energy techno­logies (such as solar, wind, hydropower including pumped storage, geothermal, bioenergy, heat pumps, carbon cap­ture, utilisation and storage, and nu­clear en­er­gy), it also recognised the need for gr­ea­ter deployment of new and emerging technologies such as electrolysers, bio­energy with carbon capture and sto­rage, direct air capture, high efficiency fuel cells, ACC battery storage, sustainable advanced biofuels, and small modular reactors in accelerating the energy transitions. The countries that have opted to use civil nuclear energy reaffirmed its role in providing clean energy and ac­hieving energy security, given its ability to supply baseload power and of­fer grid flexibility. These countries aim to collaborate in research, development and deployment of civil nuclear technologies including advanced and small modular reactors.

Fuels for the future: The group recognises the importance of adopting and advancing sustainable biofuels and hy­drogen produced from zero- and low-emission technologies, and its derivatives such as ammonia to advance energy transitions, enhance energy security, and address GHG emissions. It aims to support the production and utilisation of green hydrogen and its derivatives by developing voluntary and mutually ag­r­e­ed harmonising standards as well as mutually recognised, and interoperable certification schemes. The member co­untries ha­ve adopted “G20 High Level Voluntary Prin­ciples on Hydrogen” (see box) to build a sustainable and equitable global hydrogen ecosystem. India has also launched the Green Hydro­gen In­no­vation Centre under the aegis of the International Solar Alliance at the G20 ETWG ministerial meet.

With regard to biofuels, the group aims to promote innovative technologies for sector coupling and increasing the role of bioenergy and biofuels in the 4Rs fra­me­work (reduce, reuse, recycle and re­mo­­ve). India has also announced its pl­an to establish a Global Biofuels Allia­nce (GBA), which is expected to be formally la­un­ched in the upcoming G20 Leaders’ Summit in New Delhi. At an event on consultations and recommendations for the Global Biofuels Alliance organised on the sideline of the Energy Tran­sitions Minis­terial Meeting, 19 co­un­tries expre­ss­ed their interest in becoming initiating members of the alliance. The GBA will serve as an international platform for sh­a­ring best practices, promoting sustainable biofuel development, and en­h­a­ncing its application, particularly within the transportation sector. The alliance is ex­pec­ted to be spearheaded by major biofuel producers – the US, Brazil and India – and aims to accelerate the tran­si­tion to sustainable fuels while reducing reliance on fossil fuels.

Access to low-cost financing for energy transitions: The G20 energy ministers emphasised the need to expedite the voluntary transfer and adoption of sustainable and low-carbon energy technologies on mutually agreed terms. These techno­logies are often capital-intensive and req­uire low-cost financing from various sourc­es. G20 members will work towards facilitating access to low-cost finance for existing as well as new and emerging clean and sustainable technologies.

Notably, the report on “Low-cost Finan­cing for the Energy Transition”, prepared under the Indian Presidency, estimates that the world needs an annual investment of over $4 trillion, with a high share of renewable energy in the primary energy mix. The outcome report reiterates the importance of low-cost financing in ac­celerating energy transitions. It recog­ni­ses the need for international finance ins­ti­tutions and multilateral development banks to enhance and develop new me­cha­nisms and products to promote acc­ess to low-cost financing that align with their mandates and governance framework and the goal to scale up the mobilisation of private finance.

Chair’s summary

According to the chair’s summary, which incorporates the suggestions of member nations when a consensus is not achiev­ed, the G20 energy ministers’ meeting failed to reach an agreement on phasing out coal and tripling renewable energy capacity. The chair’s summary noted that the energy sector’s contribution to GHG emissions is significant, but fossil fuels continue to play a significant role in the global energy mix, eradication of energy poverty and fulfilment of the growing energy dema­nd. While some members stressed the need to phase down unabated fossil fuels in line with varying national circumstances,  others had different vie­ws on the matter, asserting that aba­te­ment and removal technologies could add­ress such concerns.

In addition, the chair summary highlighted that the current rate of global de­ployment of grid-based technologies might be inadequate to achieve universal energy access. It called for an accelerated expansion of renewable energy in line with different national contexts, in terms of natural potential and where initial efforts have already been undertaken. The expansion should address chall­enges such as power systems’ flexibility, remove barriers that hinder implementation, and bring down costs. It highlighted the significance of our voluntary contributions in tripling the capacity of the mention­ed energy technologies globally by 2030, throu­gh existing targets and policies in line with national circumstances.

Reportedly, major fossil fuel producers, including Saudi Arabia and Russia, opposed a proposal to triple the renewable energy capacity of G20 countries by 2030. China as well as coal exporters, South Africa and Indonesia also oppos­ed these plans.


The Indian presidency led G20 energy ministers’ summit successfully highlighted some ur­gent needs in the energy se­ctor, such as the enhancement in en­ergy efficiency and supply resilience, and identified the new and emerging ar­e­as of cooperation among nations such as biofuels and green hydrogen.

However, the G20 energy officials meeting concluded with an Outcome Docu­ment and Ch­air’s Summary, instead of the anticipated Offi­cial Communique. Be­­­si­des, the member natio­ns failed to reach a consensus on some pivotal issues including the phasing out of coal and the target of tripling renewable energy capa­city. The lack of consensus on these issu­es has been seen at several energy transition and climate change dialogues.

Net, net, at this juncture, it is crucial for co­untries globally to curtail climate ch­a­nge and limit global warming through the adoption of sustainable practices and clean energy solutions. This commitment has been at the core of the G20 2023 summit under the Indian presidency, reflecting the country’s strong commitment towards climate change mitigation.

Priyanka Kwatra