Protest actions held across Asia ahead of G20 summit

PRESS RELEASE: Climate campaigners and frontline communities in the Global South call for debt, economic and climate justice 

SEPTEMBER 8, 2023: Protest actions were held in key cities in six Asian countries today ahead of the 2023 summit of leaders from the Group of 20 (G20) major economies. Rallies were held in Makati, Jakarta, Dhaka, Kathmandu, Karachi, Lahore and Colombo. Meanwhile Indian groups are set to hold protest actions in several cities and states tomorrow, September 9, in time for the opening of the summit.

“We demand that the G20 governments commit to bolder measures to address the multiple crises, including mobilizing much-needed resources through inclusive debt cancellation, adoption of wealth taxes for spending on urgent economic and climate action, and the rechanneling of public funds away from fossil fuel subsidies towards renewable energy systems,” said Lidy Nacpil, coordinator of Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD).

G20 countries together contribute to 75% of global trade and almost 85% of the world’s GDP. These countries also account for 80% of world power sector emissions, with per capita CO2 from coal power at 1.6 tons in 2022, up from 1.5 tons in 2015 and significantly higher than a global average of 1.1 tons.

The two-day summit, hosted by India in New Delhi on September 9 and 10 will discuss pressing global issues, including climate change, clean energy transition, and tackling poverty. The meeting will bring together leaders of the 20 member states and delegates from 40 countries. 

Nacpil reiterated the long standing call for the G20 to undertake a rapid, just and equitable transition to renewable energy systems: “In the face of the climate emergency, there is no more space or time to delay the fossil fuel phase out with continued subsidies and with false solutions. We reject any agreement to abate or extend the life of fossil fuels projects with carbon offsets, Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technologies, ammonia co-firing or promoting gas as transition fuel.  It would be reckless irresponsibility and utter disregard for science and the welfare of people and the planet.”

Despite a 2009 commitment to phase out and rationalize over the medium term inefficient fossil fuel subsidies, the G20’s support to produce fossil fuels and fossil fuel subsidies increased in 2021. Subsidies have continued to rise into 2022. G20 fossil fuel subsidies of at least USD 55 billion per year in oil, gas, and coal projects are almost twice the support provided for clean energy, which averaged only $29 billion per year. 

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), tripling renewable energy capacity (RE) by 2030 is crucial to achieving the Paris Agreement’s goal of keeping below 1.5C of global warming. But a G20 commitment to triple RE capacity by 2030 failed to get an agreement due to issues of financing, accessibility and technology.

Finance for Climate Action
Ian Rivera, coordinator of the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ) called on the G20 to  deliver finance not only for the energy transition, but also to cover the costs of adaptation, building resilience and addressing Loss and Damage. “G20 governments and all governments must mobilize financing to enable people and communities to deal with climate impacts and to ensure a just transition and system-wide changes necessary to stop climate catastrophe. This is an obligation that the G20 cannot ignore,” said Rivera.

Major climate and weather events in developing countries in 2022 caused more than US$109 billion in losses. The amount of loss and damage financing needed is estimated to be more than US$400 billion per year and this amount will have to be revised upward over time, according to research.

Under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, developed country governments are obliged to deliver Climate Finance for developing countries. There is a long standing pledge of $100 billion a year Climate Finance but this, climate campaigners say, is a miniscule amount compared to the scale of climate finance obligations.  Despite this pledge, five countries do not even deliver their fair share contribution to the $100 billion.    

“The Global South needs and is justly entitled to way more than $100 billion per year in climate finance based on equity and fair shares. The developed country governments among the G20 that are responsible for excessive levels of historical and continuing greenhouse gas emissions have an obligation to pay reparations for the losses and damages suffered and faced by those in the Global South, the least responsible for the climate crisis,” said Rivera.

Call for debt cancellation
“We urge G20 governments to cancel the debt for all countries facing a debt crisis, including public debts of a questionable and fraudulent nature that violated human rights and contributed to exacerbating the climate crisis,” said Dilena Pathragoda, executive director of the Colombo-based Center for Environmental Justice (CEJ).

Pathragoda said the G20’s Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI), limited to less than half of developing countries, has proven grossly inadequate in matching the depth and breadth of the debt crisis. Its successor, the Common Framework for Debt Treatments beyond DSSI, fails in providing debt relief and still frees the  private sector from responsibility, enabling  bailouts with new loans from multilateral institutions. 

Farooq Tariq, general secretary of Pakistan Kissan Rabita Committee (PKRC) said the G20’s Common framework spotlights the G20’s inability and unwillingness to address the systemic crisis of debt with long-term, durable, and transformative solutions. Countries like Sri Lanka, Pakistan and other gravely debt-burdened Global South countries starkly foreground the G20’s flawed and futile debt relief mechanisms.

 He added: “It is abhorrent that the G20 promotes more debt-creating solutions to the climate crises knowing that debt service eats into already meager resources for public expenditures. The vicious cycle of debt dependence and accumulation also traps countries into continued reliance on fossil fuels.”

According to a new report, the pressure to repay debts is forcing poor nations to continue investing in fossil fuel projects to make their repayments. 

Call on the G20 to stop blocking a UN Tax convention
We call on the G20 leaders to stop blocking progress towards a UN Tax Convention. It is a long standing demand of developing countries that the G20 and OECD have, time and again, stalled. We need a tax deal that centers the needs and concerns of the peoples of the Global South,” said Sreedhar Ramamurthi, managing trustee of the Delhi-based Environics Trust.

Ramamurthi said the G20 and OECD agreement to implement a global tax deal reinforces, rather than weakens, the ability of multinational corporations to cheat Global South countries of wealth created within their borders through extraction of their natural resources and exploitation of their peoples’ labor. Pillar One of the OECD’s Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) Framework hands the right to tax excess and non-routine profits of multinationals to countries where these corporations are based, rather than where their assets and manpower are located. Pillar Two sets a minimum global corporate income tax (CIT) rate of 15%, much lower than the current global average CIT rate, which is 25%. Ramamurthi said the former legitimizes the whisking away of wealth by corporations from the Global South to the North, while the latter will likely precipitate a race to the bottom for CIT for Global South countries, shrinking their tax bases at a time when greater resources for public services are needed more than ever.

Sri Lanka, along with Pakistan, Kenya and Nigeria withdrew support for the OECD’s BEPS in 2021. This year, Sri Lanka has come under pressure of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to rejoin the tax deal.

Protests despite heavy security
In the Philippines, members of the the Philippines Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ), Sanlakas, Oriang, K4K-QC, Aniban ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (AMA) and Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) protested in Makati City, the country’s financial district. Members of WALHI (Indonesian Forum for Environment), People’s Coalition for The Rights to Water (KRuHA), Solidaritas Perempuan and Aksi! for gender, social and ecological justice demonstrated in front of the Indian embassy in Jakarta. Waterkeepers Bangladesh led a protest in Dhaka. Pakistan Kissan Rabita Committee led a protest in front of Lahore Press Club while Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum led a similar protest in front of Karachi Press Club. Sri Lanka Centre for Environmental Justice led a protest in Colombo City. 

Despite strict security measures in India, the National Hawker Federation, an association of street vendors across 28 states in India will hold protests on September 9, along with All India Women’s Hawker Federation. Rallies will be held in Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal, Gujarat, Telangana, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh. 

Tens of thousands of New Delhi’s most marginalized residents have been evicted from their homes in the lead up to the G20 meeting in a bid to clear informal housing. The Northern Railway has canceled or rescheduled several trains affecting the services of more than 300 trains.

Lani C. Villanueva
Mobile/WhatsApp: +63 9052472970

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