Land degradation, blue economy, resource efficiency priority areas under India’s G20 presidency

New Delhi, 6 Feb: Land degradation, biodiversity loss, marine pollution, resource overconsumption and lack of waste absorption are the key environmental concerns which will be addressed in India’s G20 presidency, the environment ministry said on Monday.
Union Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav said India will promote lifestyle for environment and resilient development paradigm for G20. He said India’s G20 presidency aims to bring an integrated, comprehensive and consensus driven approach to address climate change and pursue sustainable growth.
Officials said the issue of climate finance will also be factored in the discussions.
They said the India’s G20 presidency will encourage the adoption of a “G20 Framework to Combat Land Degradation” and develop “G20 Online Knowledge and Solutions Exchange Platform” to identify and showcase successful land restoration projects.
It also wants to convene the ‘Oceans 20 Dialogue’ to assess best practices for blue asset management for adaptation with mitigation co benefits, and in mobilising finance for SDG 14 which aims to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.
The officials said climate change and Lifestyle for Environment (LiFE) cut across the environmental priorities identified for the Environment and Climate Sustainability Working Group (ECSWG) and the work of other working groups in India’s G20 presidency.
The Environment and Climate Sustainability Working Group, one of the 13 working groups under the Sherpa track, will meet four times between February and May. The first meeting will be held in Bengaluru (February 9-11), the second in Gandhinagar (March 27-29), the third in Mumbai (May 21-23) and the fourth in Chennai (May 26-27).
The ministerial meeting of the group is planned to be held on July 28 in Chennai.
“There is an urgent need to arrest land degradation, biodiversity loss and restore ecosystems as 23 per cent of the global land area is no longer productive for agricultural use because of resource extraction and waste,” Additional Secretary Richa Sharma said.
Between 2015 and 2021, the world has extracted 70 per cent more virgin materials than what the Earth can regenerate.
There has been a 69 per cent decline in the population of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish on average since 1970, according to WWF’s Living Planet Report released in September 2020.
The second priority is to promote a sustainable and climate resilient blue economy, the official said, adding that India is in the final stages of developing a National Marine Litter Policy.
“This is an important issue that we would like to continue from the Indonesian presidency. So, marine pollution and need for protection of mangroves and coral reefs are issues that will be discussed in the Indian presidency,” she said.
Oceans sequester 25 per cent of the global anthropogenic CO2 emissions. Ocean warming, sea-level rise and ocean acidification threaten half the global GDP of USD 44 trillion.
Also, India wants to draw attention to the specific issue of marine litter and will organise a coordinated beach cleaning drive that will cover all G20 members and the guest countries on May 21.
The third priority is to encourage resource efficiency and circular economy — another very big policy priority of the Indian government.
Under the Biodiversity and Land Degradation Theme, the Indian presidency hopes to help evolve and encourage the adoption of a “G20 Framework to Combat Land Degradation” and develop “G20 Online Knowledge and Solutions Exchange Platform” to identify and showcase successful land restoration projects.
It would also bring out G20 studies on restoration of abandoned mine sites and areas impacted by forest fires; and a compendium on “Best Practices for Integrated Planning and Sustainable Management of Water Resources”.
“We are also going to develop ‘G20 Principles for a Sustainable and Resilient Blue Economy’ to promote G20 cooperation on conservation, protection and responsible use of ocean resources,” the official said.
Blue Economy refers to the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs, while preserving ocean ecosystems. It covers a wide range of economic activities, including mineral extraction, fishing, aquaculture, tourism, shipping, renewable energy production and biotechnology.
“If the G20 can come together and agree on certain high-level principles that will guide the countries as they use the ocean resources, it would be an important outcome for the Indian G20 presidency,” the official said.
The Indian G20 presidency also wants to convene the ‘Oceans 20 Dialogue’ to assess best practices for blue asset management for adaptation with mitigation co benefits, and in mobilising finance for SDG 14.
The carbon sink action of the oceans is getting impacted because of pollution and over exploitation of their resources, Sharma said.
Under the circular economy theme, the Indian G20 presidency hopes to develop a knowledge exchange in the steel sector, on extended producer responsibility and circular bio-economy.
A global ‘Resource Efficiency and Circular Economy Industry Coalition’ is also proposed to be developed.
“Since circular economy and resource efficiency is a national priority and also a global environment priority, this is one issue the Indian presidency is pushing significantly,” she said.
The ECSWG meeting will build on the existing groundwork done by the United Nations Environment Assembly and the three Rio Conventions — the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Convention on Biological Diversity and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, the ministry said.
It will also leverage Mission LiFE to collectively define a new, sustainable and resilient development paradigm for the G20 countries.
Under India’s presidency, the ECSWG meetings will focus on bringing an integrated, comprehensive and consensus-driven approach to address climate change and pursue sustainable growth.
“Naturally, we wanted that the key concerns being addressed in the three Rio conventions should find a reflection… So, you find issues of land degradation, climate change and biodiversity conservation reflected in the priorities of the Indian presidency,” Sharma said.
We also wanted to bring through an approach which is integrated, which means we wanted to address climate change as impacting biodiversity, (leading to) land degradation and not in silos.
“Typically, countries have addressed environmental issues through an environment deputies’ meeting and climate issues through a climate sustainability working group meeting. We have tried to bring it together,” she said.
The Indian presidency seeks to encourage discussions, inputs and reflections from all the G20 countries to arrive at its outcomes.
Asked if issues related to climate finance will be part of discussions, Leela Nandan, secretary in the environment ministry, said, “There has to be some discussion, understanding and deeper resolve to address climate finance requirements and there is a dedicated (sustainable) finance working group for that. Climate finance is a very important aspect that is being deliberated (in that group).”
“In our working group also, certainly the issues of climate finance… will be factored into our discussions,” she said.
“Issues of climate finance are being discussed in the Sustainable Finance Working Group; issues of building resilience to climate change, resilient infrastructure and disaster preparedness are being discussed in the Disaster Risk Reduction Working Group. Matters relating to energy transition are being discussed in the Energy Transition Working Group. The Development Working Group is discussing lifestyles for environment for attaining sustainable development goals,” Sharma said.
Calling on people to adopt an environmentally conscious lifestyle that focuses on mindful and deliberate utilisation instead of mindless and wasteful consumption, Prime Minister Narendra Modi along with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in October last year launched Mission LiFE, a global plan of action aimed at saving the planet from the disastrous consequences of climate change.
The G20 countries account for 80 per cent of the annual global greenhouse gas emissions, 85 per cent of the global gross domestic product and 75 per cent of the global trade. (PTI)