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University of Toronto

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Prospects for a Significant Performance
at the New Delhi Summit

John Kirton, G20 Research Group, September 8, 2023 (updated from September 5, 2023)
PDF with Appendices

Note: For the appendices please download the PDF version.


The G20's 18th summit, taking place in New Delhi on 9–10 September 2023, is the most important one that G20 leaders have ever held. Indian prime minister Narendra Modi as host and his colleagues from the world's systemically significant states, confront an unprecedented combination of interconnected crises. They include slowing economic growth, high inflation, interest rates and debt, energy, food and health insecurity, Russia's war against Ukraine, and, above all, the climate emergency from the record heat and resulting extreme weather events throughout the world.

This is the first time that India, the world's most populous country, will host a G20 summit. It follows India's successful hosting of the G20's annual finance ministers and central bank governors meeting in 2002, as the first developing country to do so. It continues a trend of rising democratic powers from the Global South hosting the G20, with India following Indonesia in 2022, and before Brazil in 2024 and South Africa in 2025 (Kirton and Koch 2022).

It will be the third G20 summit hosted by a member of the BRICS of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, following Russia in 2013 and China in 2016. India is the first BRICS host that is not one of the Permanent Five members of the United Nations Security Council. It continues the Indo-Pacific emphasis in G20 hosting begun by Japan in 2019. It thus enables a rising India to lead global governance, alongside or even above the world's top tier powers of the democratic United States and India's authoritarian Asian rival of China. And the Delhi Summit follows a recent trend of stable, substantial G20 summit performance, since G20 summits started amid the American-turned-global financial crisis in 2008 (Kirton 2013) (see Appendix A).

The Debate

The prospective performance of the G20's New Delhi Summit has been the subject of a debate among several schools of thought.

The first school saw Modi's global success in steering the G20 and leveraging India's equity in the world, claiming a "unique exceptionalism post-Ukraine," fashioning India's "strategic security partnership with the world" and continuing its old relationship with Russia" (Editor-in-Chief 2023). This was due to Modi's domestic status as an "indefatigable colossus who dominated the political landscape with his grit and savvy."

A stronger variant of this school saw the G20 as India's stepping-stone to top tier global status in the G7, due to nine years of Modi's leadership. Ata Hasnain (2023) argued that "nine years of a dynamic and fast changing international environment has seen India keep matching pace and undoubtedly can aspire for a higher rung on the hierarchy of stable nations. The G20 chair is testimony to the expectations from India and the invite to the G7 is a precursor to the eventual pride of place which is being kept for India."

The second school saw success for India and the G20, due to India's diligence, diplomatic nimbleness and political vision. Rajiy Bhatia (2023) argued at the midpoint of India's presidency that India "has performed quite well so far, particularly in creating an unprecedented buzz across the land about India's role in the world. The caravan should reach its destination successfully, bringing greater glory to India and the G20." He identified the criteria for success as consensus, additionality and implementability, added the need to accept the African Union as a full G20 member and expand the UNSC, and noted certain progress on additional climate and energy transition finance, and a strong formulation in the final declaration on the global relevance of India's Digital Public Goods.

The third school saw the host's successful self-promotion, but small substantive progress, due to the geopolitical divide over China and Russia, India's incoherent focus on its self-interests, and the re-election preoccupations in India's prime minister Modi (Economist 2023).

The fourth school saw a suboptimal outcome due to "recent global events" (Phadnis 2023) These events were seen in India's decision to host virtually the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) on July 4, the failure of China to confirm its in-person participation, and how the BRICS summit in South Africa would deal with the arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin. The prospects were for a G20 Leaders Declaration to be adopted based on the ministerial and working group meetings in the lead-up, advances on climate finance, the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), climate resilience, an Indian initiative to fund start-ups, a new institution for science and technology, and the idea of One Health.

The Argument

By early September, the G20's New Delhi Summit was likely to produce a significant performance. Leaders will transcend their divisions over Russia's war against Ukraine to agree on a long, largely consensus communiqué, and perhaps even a full one, as they did at their Bali Summit in Indonesia in November last year. They will make major advances on Modi's innovative priorities, led by his Lifestyle for Environment (LiFE) movement, women-led development and the key demands of the Global South. They will overcome some deadlocks on clean, accessible energy and food security, digital public infrastructure, and climate change. Above all, on the escalating climate emergency, they will forge a firm foundation for Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's G20 summit next year to build the transformations needed to control this truly existential threat.

This significant performance will be propelled by six forces: the severe, shock-activated vulnerability of all G20 members from the unprecedented climate change-intensified extreme weather events and Russia's war against Ukraine, by the major multilateral organizations' failure in response, and by the increasing equality in key capabilities in a still globally predominant G20 as India's economy grows and China's slows. These forces will overcome the increasing divergence between the rising democratic members and the declining non-democratic ones and the limited domestic political control some G20 leaders have. A final push comes from the increased value that host India and all members but Russia and China place on the G20, as the club at the hub of growing network of effective global summit governance.

Plans and Priorities

The Decision to Host

India had decided to host the G20 in 2023, rather than in its scheduled year of 2022. To do so it switched places with Indonesia, which had already switched places with Italy which hosted in 2021. With Brazil hosting in 2024 and South Africa in 2025, this sequence produced four years of hosts from developing countries or emerging economies, from democratic ones, and ones with experience in the globally relevant plurilateral summit institutions the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting and the India, Brazil, South Africa (IBSA) group.

India's Priorities

India's initially identified possible priorities in August 2022 were extensive (ET Bureau 2022). The first was climate change, focused on achieving the (SDGs, and the circular economy, sustainable public procurement, a climate resilient blue economy, coastal stability, green tourism and hydrogen. The digital economy contained a possible global initiative on an International Digital Health Framework, to transform health service delivery, based on India's Covid-19 vaccination platform. Food and agriculture contained using digital space to improve productivity, support for small and marginal farmers, food security by exempting World Food Programme (WFP) purchases from national restrictions.

Education had improved learning outcomes through technology-enabled pedagogy and mutual recognition of educational and vocational qualifications. Employment covered mapping global skills gaps and facilitating the migration and mobility of workers. Anti-corruption sought to advance a nine-point agenda on fugitive economic offenders and draw up integrity principles for public bodies.

Culture contained the digitalization of tangible and intangible cultural heritage and developing public digital platforms for socioeconomic development. The trade and investment priority sought to accelerate trade growth, build resilient supply chains and enhance trickle-down growth.

India's de facto G20 presidency began when "Prime Minister Narendra Modi accepted the ceremonial gavel from Indonesian President Joko Widodo at a handover event during the conclusion of the G20 summit in Bali on Wednesday, November 16. Modi…said that the world was looking to India's leadership of the forum of the largest economies with 'hope'" (Haidar 2022). Modi noted that India assumed the role when the world was simultaneously confronting geopolitical tensions, economic slowdown, rising food and energy prices, and the long-term harms from the COVID-19 pandemic. In response, India gave its 2023 G20 summit an unusually comprehensive agenda, focused on several of the central challenges the global community confronts. India chose as the summit theme "One Earth, One Family, One Future," signalling its desire to put the planet's endangered natural environment first. Modi promised an "inclusive, ambitious, decisive, and action-oriented" presidency that would prioritize women-led development.

When India formally took the G20's chair on 1 December 2022, Modi identified seven priorities.

The first three of the seven priorities were ecologically infused ones.

India's other agenda items included digital health, the digital economy, food and agriculture security, education, employment, anti-corruption, culture, and trade and investment.

India's priorities had several innovative features. They mainstreamed the natural environment throughout and put digitalization as the key to health and economic growth. For the first time, they put responsible consumption and a sustainable lifestyle as a high level principle across all work streams, following Modi's introduction of the LiFE concept at the UN climate summit in Glasgow in 2021. And women-led development focused the G20 and G7's traditional, inherited gender equality agenda in a broader way for the Global South.

On climate change, biodiversity and the environment, India sought stronger action, in support of the UN's SDGs, whose 17 goals were due to be achieved by 2030. It included the familiar concept of a circular economy and the issues of green hydrogen and a climate resilient blue economy. But it added a new emphasis on coastal stability, sustainable public procurement and green tourism. Specifically, it envisaged acting on green hydrogen "through its Energy Transition working group and India's National Hydrogen mission, to decarbonise hard to abate sectors such as fertilizers, cement, steel and long distance transport." It also contemplated creating a working group on Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience and an Engagement Group on Global Ecosystems for Start-ups.

On health, it sought to create an International Digital Health Framework, to transform health service delivery, modeled on India's Covid-19 vaccination platform and digital health framework.

On the economy, it focused on a circular economy, responsible consumption and a sustainable lifestyle, as a defining principle in all workstreams and in the development and agriculture working groups. On trade, investment and infrastructure, it sought to hasten the growth of international trade, make supply chains more resilient, and enhance trade that benefits small and medium size enterprises and the poor. On tourism and culture, it emphasized the digitalization of tangible and intangible cultural heritage and on using public digital platforms for socioeconomic development.

On food and agriculture, it focused on small and marginal farmers, food security by exempting WFP purchases from restrictions and using digital technology to improve productivity. On labour and employment, it wished to map the global skills gaps, and encourage migration and the mobility of workers. On education, the goal was to improve learning outcomes through technology-enabled pedagogy, and mutual recognition of educational and vocational qualifications.

On anti-corruption, it sought to advance a nine-point agenda on fugitive economic offenders and draw up integrity principles for public bodies. On security in its traditional form, it would build on the 2022 Bali Summit's advances in ending Russia's war against Ukraine, and rebuilding Ukraine in healthier, cleaner, greener ways.

In mid-January 2023, Indian sherpa Amitabh Kant (2023) identified India's priorities as addressing the climate crisis, global debt, geopolitical tensions, the food and energy crisis, progress on the SDGs, and the 4-Ds of demographics, digitalization, decarbonization and de-globalisation. The CEO of Niti Aayong added green development, climate finance and LiFE.

By May 28, according to Harsh Shringla, India's G20 convenor, India's priorities were now green development, climate finance, inclusive growth, technological transformation and digital public infrastructure, and women-led development (Chowdhury 2023). The environment still came first.


To make his summit work for the Global South, in December Modi gathered the leaders and foreign ministers of 125 developing countries in New Delhi to give them voice from the very start. He also designed India's presidency to highlight India's geographical and cultural diversity, with about 200 G20 meetings held across the country. To produce a "people's G20" he mounted these events throughout all regions of India, which highlighted their rich distinctive history, culture, hospitality, products and cuisine.

Ministerial Meetings

To help prepare the summit, India mounted 19 ministerial meetings, involving 16 different ministerial portfolios, similar to what Indonesia did the year before (see Appendix B). All were scheduled to take place before the summit, with almost all starting in June. These densely scheduled meetings left less time for members with small sherpa teams to mount bilateral meetings or manage their schedules to attend. There was thus some fatigue, with officials having to travel to India every month from April to September.

By early September, the 17 ministerial meetings held in India had each produced a consensus outcome document, containing 701 commitments on which Delhi's leaders could build. All meetings had a message from Modi himself. But all documents contained one-to-three paragraphs issued as a chair's summary, due to Russia and often Chinese dissent.

On February 25, 2023, the finance ministers and central bank governors meeting in Bengaluru produced a chair's summary and outcome document of seven pages plus two annexes. It contained 67 commitments covering 11 subjects (see Appendix C). They were led by financial regulation (including of cryptocurrencies) with 14, followed by climate change and macroeconomic policy with nine each, international financial institution (IFI) reform with eight; health with seven; infrastructure with five; development, tax and crime with four each; trade with two; and terrorism and non-proliferation with one each.

The document noted that all participants agreed to paragraphs 1–2 and 5–7, but not paragraphs 3–4 on the war in Ukraine, with which Russia and now China disagreed, contained no commitments. It appeared as a chair's summary as well as an outcome document. This marked a retreat from the full agreement on the Bali's Leaders' Declaration (including the passages on Ukraine). Moreover, China had now joined Russia in its dissent. So there was a retreat, rather than an advance from the Bali Summit consensus on Ukraine.

On March 1–2, the G20 foreign ministers meeting in New Delhi followed a similar formula. It produced a chair's summary and outcome document of nine pages and 24 paragraphs. It contained 16 commitments covering seven subjects. By section titles, strengthening multilateralism (through the SDG Summit, the 29th Conference of the Parties [COP] to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Summit of the Future, and cooperation with regional partners and Africa) had two, food and energy security had one, climate change and biodiversity had nine, global health had one, development cooperation had one, counterterrorism had one, and gender equality and women's empowerment had one. Among the subjects with commitments in both these first two ministerial meetings were climate change/biodiversity with 18 and development with five.

In mid-April, the finance ministers and central bank governors met in Washington DC, as part of the semi-annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank. They were unable even to produce a chair's summary, so no new commitments came.

On June 10-11, development ministers met in Varanasi, Utter Pradesh. They produced two documents. The first was an Outcome Document and Chairs' Summary of 1,787 words which stated that all members agreed to paragraph's 1–9 and 12–14. The second was titled "G20 High Level Principles on Lifestyles for Sustainable Development," which contained 12,385 words, to which all members agreed. This showed that the SDGs were a unifying force. The Outcome Document contained 36 commitments.

On June 17, agriculture ministers met in Hyderabad. They produced an outcome document and chair's summary with 4,818 words and 26 paragraphs, one annex and a "Stocktaking of G20 Initiatives in Agriculture." All members agreed to all paragraphs save for Russia, which dissociated itself from paragraphs 3–5, and "China stated that the meetings outcome should not include any reference to the Ukraine crisis." The document and its Annex contained 45 commitments.

On June 21–22, tourism ministers in Goa made 10 commitments.

On June 22, education ministers met in Pune. They produced an outcome document and chair's summary with 34 paragraphs and 21 commitments. All members agreed to paragraphs 1–6 and 9–34. Russia said it was not an outcome document due to paragraphs 7–8 on Ukraine and China said "G20 technical working groups are not the right forums to discuss geopolitical issues."

In July, the production of commitments surged. On July 5, research ministers in Mumbai made 25 commitments. On July 17–18, finance ministers and central bank governors in Gandhinagar made 95 commitments. On July 21, labour and employment ministers in Indore made 30 commitments. On July 22, energy ministers in Goa made 48 commitments. On July 28–29, environment and climate sustainability ministers meeting in Chennai made a new peak of 133 commitments. By the end of July, G20 ministers had made a total of 501 commitments.

In August they added many more. On August 3, the ministerial meeting on women's empowerment in Gandhinagar made 28 commitments. On August 9–12, anti-corruption ministers in Kolkata made 47 commitments. On August 19, digital economy ministers in Bengaluru made 11 commitments. On August 18–19, health ministers in Gandhinagar made 28 commitments. On August 24-25, trade and investment ministers in Jaipur made 26 commitments. And on August 26, culture ministers in Varanesi made 32 commitments.

By September 5, the 17 pre-summit ministerial meetings held in India had produced 701 full-consensus commitments. The finance and energy ministers' meeting, to be held jointly on the eve of the summit on September 8, was due to produce several more.

Working Groups

India inherited 13 existing G20 working groups (see Appendix D). It added two more. One was a working group on gender proposed by the United States that seemed by early May to be a done deal. There was also a research initiative that would likely become a working group. India had also created a working group on disaster resilience. It was problematic for Brazil and Germany, where disaster resilience was handled at the sub-federal level. By May 31, India's G20 website listed 21 working groups or equivalents, with 13 on the sherpa track and eight on the finance track.

In late May the working group on tourism met in Kashmir. It was boycotted by China, Saudi Arabia and Türkiye, which sided with Pakistan, which claimed that territory as its own.

Modi's Pre-Summit Visits

Modi made many pre-summit tours to his fellow leaders. He went to the G7 as a guest in Hiroshima on May 19–21, and to the Quadrilateral summit there as a member. His most important bilateral visits were with US president Joe Biden in Washington on June 22 and French president Emmanuel Macron in Paris on July 14.

Compliance Momentum

G20 members' substantial compliance with the priority commitments from the Bali Summit provided momentum for a significant success (see Appendix E). By April 29, 2023, the G20 Research Group found compliance averaged 75%. It was led by compliance with the commitments on the environment at 82%, food at 80%, trade at 79% and crime-corruption at 78%, followed by energy at 76%, and macroeconomic policy, health and climate change at 74%. Below the average were digitalization at 70%, labour (gender) at 68%, and development at 48%.

By member, compliance was led by the United Kingdom with 90%, the United States, Korea and Argentina with 87% (see Appendix F). India had 83%, Canada, Japan, the European Union and Australia with 80% each, Brazil, China and Saudi Arabia with 77% each, and Italy with 75%. Below average is Indonesia with 73%, Russia with 63%, France with 61%, Mexico with 50%, and South Africa and Türkiye with 47%. The three members of the governing troika — Indonesia, India and Brazil — in 2022 averaged 77% and in 2023 78%.

By June 13, average compliance had risen to 77%. It was led by compliance on the environment at 90%, climate change at 85% (a sharp rise from 74%), macroeconomic policy on fiscal resilience at 83%, food and agriculture and energy access at 80% each, and the digital economy, crime and corruption, health governance, and the environment (land protection) at 78% each. The lowest was on the Common Framework for Debt Treatment at only 48%. The strong rise for climate change came just after unprecedented climate shocks arrived in May.

Among members, compliance was now led by the European Union with 97%, followed by the United Kingdom with 90%, Germany with 89%, and Canada, Korea and Argentina with 87% each. Then came host India, Australia, and Saudi Arabia with 83% each, the United States and Japan with 80% each, Italy with 79% and 2024 host Brazil with 77%. Below the 77% average came China and 2022 host Indonesia at 73%, Then, with a great gap, were Russia with 63%, France with 61%, Mexico with 60%, 2025 host South Africa with 53% and Türkiye with 50%.

The eight G7 members, including the European Union, together had an above average 83%. The five BRICS members together had a below average 70%. The top eight ranked members were all democracies, as were 12 of the 13 top ranked ones.

Sherpa Meetings

There was a G20 sherpa meeting in July 2023. Several virtual ones followed. The final in-person one took place on September 3–6, on the outskirts of Delhi. Here Indian sherpa Kant sought to produce a full consensus communiqué.

On the Eve

On the eve of the summit, prospects for its performance were very much in doubt. Putin had said he would skip the summit, sending his foreign minister Sergei Lavrov in his place. It was unclear if this time, Putin and Lavrov would veto a fully consensus communiqué, or allow one to appear, as they had at Bali last year.

A new uncertainty arose from China. In early September, Xi Jinping indicated that he too would skip the summit, sending Premier Li Qiang or another official in his place (Bloomberg 2023; Foy, Politi, Reed and Leahy 2023; Foy, Reed and Leahy 2023). Moreover, China released a new map of its borders, claiming it owned territory long clearly part of India, Vietnam and the Philippines, and now Indonesia and even Russia too.

As G20 members tried to produce a final leaders' communiqué, China was vehemently opposed to having Modi's theme for the summit appear in India's ancient Hindu language of Sanskrit. China also blocked drafts condemning Russia's war on Ukraine, and on emerging market debt relief.

Divisions also arose between G7 members and the others over a proposal for a promise to give developing countries new funding to meet UN targets on climate change, clean energy, hunger and education. A draft communiqué called for an additional $500 billion to achieve the SDGs, but G7 members were opposed.

By the evening of September 5, several differences remained, reflected in square brackets in the draft communiqué. This included those on peaking global emissions by 2025, tripling renewable energy capacity, phasing down fossil fuels, meeting the Paris-agreed temperature rise, noting that developed countries produced the largest share of current emissions, if not submitting all countries' nationally determined contributions by the end of 2023 (Nandi 2023). Other differences at the environment ministers' meeting were on doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency.

There were also difference on other issues (Jayaswal 2023). They included digital public infrastructure (DPI), fossil fuel reduction, Ukraine, debt restructuring, funding for green development, cryptocurrency regulation and the addition of the African Union as a full G20 member. On DPI, some developed countries opposed globalizing DPI free of charge due to pressure from western payments processing networks. Saudi Arabia, Russia and China opposed proposals to increase renewable energy and reduce offal fuel use. India's proposal to regulate the internet was opposed by several European members.

Prospective Performance

Yet much of value had been agreed. The many ministerial meetings, and the advances in the sherpa process, produced many important commitments that the G20 leaders are very likely to endorse or adopt in expanded form. These include Mission LiFE, the G20 High Level Principles on Lifestyle for Sustainable Development, the High Level Principles for a Sustainable and Climate Resilient Blue Economy, One-Health based pandemic prevention, preparedness and response, and a Global Medical Countermeasures Coordination Platform.

To strengthen G20 institutions, India had added an official working group on disaster risk resilience and the Start-up 20 civil society engagement group. Above all, G20 leaders at Delhi were also very likely, for the first time since the G20 began its work in 1999, to expand its membership by adding the African Union as a full member, to give the Global South an even greater voice.

After the end of the finance deputies meeting on September 6, several advances had been made (Jayaswal 2023, Kundu 2023). They were a financial inclusion action plan 2024-26 based on India's DPI, a global framework for crypto assets, a framework for reforming multilateral development banks (MDBs), cities, debt relief, climate finance, a climate assessment and transition plan, a push on the SDGs, food and energy insecurity, and international corporate tax.

On financial inclusion and DPI, all members agreed on the G20 Financial Inclusion Action Plan 2024-26 as a road map for policy analysis, recommendations, high-level principles and sharing experiences, cases and solutions. They agreed on the three-year mission based financial inclusion's role in securing the SDGs.

On cryptocurrency, members overcame their initial disagreements, at India's urging to agree on regulation, based on cryptocurrencies' macroeconomic and regulatory risks, as seen in the failure of FTX. The IMF's work on macroeconomic risks and the work of the Financial Stability Board (FSB) on regulatory risks merged into an synthesis paper that outlined comprehensive road map, with building blocks.

On MDB reform, members agreed to make them relevant for the 21st century and especially for the Global South, with each development bank free to implement its G20 recommendations. The recommended capital adequacy framework, if implemented, would add lending of $200 billion until 2033.  It could include broadening the World Bank's mandate to add climate change, the SDGs and global public goods. A few operational issues would be resolved by September 9.

On cities, MDBs and development finance institutions would identify some pilot cases for financing, and the G20 would compile financial models and a framework for assessing and enhancing the institutional capacity of urban administration.

On debt relief, all members but China neared an agreement to manage debt vulnerabilities in the Global South. India pushed members to agree on a common framework for Gambia, Ethiopia and Ghana. It was linked to climate change, which China opposed.

On climate finance there was agreement in-principle to scale up balanced finance, risk sharing facilities, private funds' participation, rapid deployment of low carbon technology and the MDBs' role. A detailed deal would be left to the COP in Dubai beginning at the end of November. 

On climate change, there would be a framework for country-specific assessments of the macroeconomic impacts of the climate crisis and proposed transition pathways. Leaders would probably add non-pricing instruments to pricing ones for carbon reduction. They would create a multi-year G20 Technical Assistance Action Plan to overcome data-related barriers to climate investments. They agree on that the extensive use of fossil fuels should end through a country-specific approach. Due to Sauda Arabia, the proposed "Just Climate Transition" had become a "Just Transition."

On the SDGs, as India wished, leaders would adopt environment and social project, especially in education and health, and perhaps add private finance.

On food and energy insecurity and their macroeconomic consequences, along with global supply chains, there would be more cooperation in financing low-income countries, despite Russia's opposition to including it even as a footnote.

On tax, they were close to consensus on the implementation of two-pillar tax framework and capacity building for countries to do this.

On climate change and energy, in the sherpa track, all agreed to triple renewable energy capacity by 2030 (Laskar 2023). This was after Saudi Arabia secured its demand that this commitment not be linked to a reduction of fossil fuels.

On artificial intelligence they agreed to collectively address its challenges and international governance.

Yet major differences remained (Laskar 2023). They were on phasing out fossil fuel subsidies and phasing down fossil fuels, particularly coal. On Ukraine, Russia, China and India tried to change the text from Bali, with India substituting a call for a substitution of hostilities but the G7 and EU could accept no less than the Bali text. On DPI, although all agreed on the concept, there were differences over how to finance its expansion beyond India.

At the New Delhi Summit, leaders would go beyond setting principles and frameworks and endorsing their ministers' work to make bolder decisions and even some breakthroughs too. They were well on track to produce a summit of significant performance.

Propellors of Performance

They will be spurred to do so due to the unprecedented climate change and extreme weather shocks that struck all their countries during the summer, and the military, economic, food, energy and health shocks and vulnerabilities they also faced in 2023. The failure of the multilateral organizations for the environment, finance, and development to do enough to reduce or remove these unprecedented shocks and vulnerabilities, will lead G20 leaders to try to do the job themselves. They know that together they have the predominant power to do so, in all important areas. They also know that their relative power within their group is equalizing, led by the rise in India's gross domestic product (GDP) growth and population to the top spot in the G20, the decline in the US dollar's value, and the slowing growth of China, Russia, the UK, Canada and Germany. Their common characteristics and principles are a constraint, with deepening authoritarianism in China and Russia, but this is partly offset by the increase in democracy in Brazil. Their substantial domestic political control is led by Modi, with the longest experience at G20 summits, high popularity at home and abroad, and firm control of his legislature. Modi, as the summit host, also stands at the hub of a growing network of global summit governance, having attended the G7 summit and the Quadrilateral summit in Hiroshima in May, having hosted the SCO summit in July, and participating in the BRICS summit in South Africa in late August and the East Asia and Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) summits in Indonesia in early September, along with bilateral visits to Biden and Macron before the New Delhi Summit's start. The absence of a rapidly weakening Putin in person at New Delhi and that of Xi reduces the Russian and Chinese constraints that G20 leaders must overcome to reach ambitious agreements.

Shock-Activated Vulnerability

The first cause, shock-activated vulnerability (SAV), is very strong, sustained and broad. It is led by the surge in the unprecedented climate change and extreme weather shocks that struck all their countries during the summer, and the economic, food, energy, health and security shocks and vulnerabilities they also face. These include the latest stage of Russia's war against Ukraine, economically vulnerable groups, debt, pandemics and financial institutions.

Communiqué Recognized SAVs

Communiqué recognized SAVs were strong in the chair's summaries released by the host at the end of the G20 ministerial meetings (see Appendix G). They were led by the latest stage of Russia's war against Ukraine; economically vulnerable groups; emerging, middle and developing economy (EMDE) debt; pandemics; financial institutions; and, later, climate change–intensified extreme weather events.

The chair's summary of the finance ministers' and central bank governors' meeting in Bengaluru on February 25 recognized seven shocks and seven vulnerabilities. The seven shocks were the Ukraine war with three, the Turkish-Syrian earthquakes with two and pandemics with two. The seven vulnerabilities were EMDE debt with three, economically vulnerable groups with three and financial institutions with one. The total of 14 shocks and vulnerabilities coincided with the 67 commitments made.

The chair's summary of the foreign ministers' meeting in New Delhi on March 1–2 recognized 17 shocks and five vulnerabilities. The 17 shocks were from natural disasters with six, health with five, the Ukraine war with three, earthquakes with two and armed conflicts with one. The five vulnerabilities were for developing countries from climate change and disasters, developing countries' food security with one, the poorest, women and girls with one, and terrorism with one. These 22 shocks and vulnerabilities coincided with the 16 commitments, strongly suggesting the salience of other causes that constrained commitment, above all Russian and Chinese dissent over the war in Ukraine.

The development ministers' outcome document and chair's summary recognized five shocks and two vulnerabilities. Three of these shocks were on the war in Ukraine.

Media-highlighted SAVs

Media-highlighted SAVs were strong throughout the summer. They were always led by the economy or democracy, with the latter centred on Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Climate change became a strong third in mid-May, slipped a bit in June and July, but returned to significant third place in August, appearing on the front page of selected newspapers on 56% of the days analyzed in August.

On the front page of the Financial Times, in the lead-up to the G7 Hiroshima Summit, from May 1 to 12, stories on the economy had appeared on 83% of the 12 days analyzed, democracy and on digitalization on 67%, and climate change and health only 33%. During this time, the average number of front-page stories on the days they appeared was led by democracy at 56%, followed by the economy at 47%, digitalization 38%, and climate change and health at 25% each.

The week before and during the G7 summit, from May 13 to 20, stories on democracy appeared on 88% of the seven days analyzed, on the economy 57%, on climate-energy 63%, and on digital and on health 38%. Stories on the G7 itself appeared on 57%.

Shortly after the G7 summit, from June 1 to 17, stories on democracy on appeared on all or 100% of the analyzed days, on the economy 69%, on health 62% and on climate change and digitalization 59%.

In July, stories on democracy appeared on 23 of the 25 analyzed days for 92%, the economy on 20 days for 80%, climate change on 10 for 40%, digitalization on 10 for 40%, and health nine for 36%.

From August 1 to August 31, stories on the economy appeared on 26 of the 27 analyzed days when the paper appeared for 96%, on democracy 23 days for 85%, on climate change 15 for 56%, on digitalization eight for 30%, and on health three for 11%. During this time, the economy had 39 stories, democracy 28, climate change 20, digitalization 10, and health only three.

Scientific Shocks

Scientific shocks were complete. All the leading scientific organizations and scientists confirmed the unprecedent emissions, heat in the air, land and sea, and the deadly extreme weather events throughout the G20.

Physical Shocks

Physical shocks were very strong. They were led by extreme weather events intensified by climate change, followed by those from Russia's war against Ukraine, and the persistently high inflation and food prices it brought.

Climate change-intensified extreme weather events soared. As May ended, temperatures rose to historic highs in many G20 members and other countries around the world (see Appendix F). China's large cities of Shanghai and Guangzhou and much of South and West China had record heat, even as China's emissions reached a record high in the first quarter of 2023 and its coal projects rose (Griffiths 2023). Severe deadly floods afflicted China and northern Italy. Wildfires ravaged western Canada in British Columbia and Alberta, in the city of Halifax on the eastern coast and in Canada's Arctic region too. By August, much of the US had historic heat, and a deadly wildfire in Hawaii killed over 100 people.

Multilateral Organizational Failure

The failure of the established formal multilateral organizations to do enough to reduce or remove the unprecedented shocks and vulnerabilities, will lead G20 leaders to try to close the growing gap themselves. The UN climate summit in Glasgow in 2021, and its ministerial meeting in Egypt in 2022 had failed to prevent, stop or slow the climate crisis. The UNSC similarly failed to prevent or end Russia's war Ukraine. The other UN institutions failed to prevent the retreats on the SDGs. And the IMF and World Bank failed to prevent or restore slowing growth and development and rising interest rates and debt throughout the world. There was little hope that the UN's several high-level meetings in September on the SDGs and health would close the gap. Only one of the leaders of the UNSC Permanent Five Members — Biden — planned to attend the UN's High-Level Meeting on the SDGs in mid-September.

In sharp contrast, the informal G7 had produced a historically strong performance at its regular annual summit in Hiroshima, Japan on May 19–21, 2023. But it was unable to prevent or cope with the unprecedented climate crisis starting in May, nor the other crises confronting the world by September.

Predominant Equalizing Capability

G20 leaders knew that together they have the predominant power to do so, in all important areas. They also knew that their relative power within their group was equalizing, led by the rise in India's GDP growth and population to the top spot in the G20, and by the steady state of the US dollar's value, and the decline in GDP growth of Chinese, the UK and other G7 economies.

Global Predominance

G20 members continued to have 80% of global GDP, 80% of its greenhouse gas emissions, 75% of its trade, and a majority of its population, energy production and consumption, and natural capital (see Appendix I).

Internal Equality

The G20's internal equalization increased, if to a small degree.

India, the G20 host, saw both its currency value rise, and its GDP growth lead the G20 with a 7.8% annualized increase in the second quarter of 2023.

The United States' overall capability was steady. By August 26, the US dollar approached the level it had started the year with. Its GDP grew modestly in the first two quarters of 2023.

In contrast, China's overall capability slowed, both in the renminbi's market exchange rate value and in its real GDP growth.

Japan's economy grew, but that of Germany, the UK and Canada contracted by the summer of 2023.

Russia's currency and GDP plunged, while Brazil's economy grew.

Common Characteristics

G20 members' common characteristics and principles declined a little, providing a constraint on performance. There was deepening authoritarianism in China and Russia, offset by increasing democracy in Brazil, and a steady state in the US, India, Japan and elsewhere.

Domestic Political Control

The G20 leaders' domestic political control was substantial. It was led by Modi, with high popularity at home and abroad, and firm control of his legislature.

Domestic Popularity

The leaders' domestic popularity is mixed (see Appendix K). Among the physical attendees, India's Modi as host leads with a high 76% approval, followed by Australia's Anthony Albanese at 54% and 2024 host Lula of Brazil at 52%. Then below 50% are the G7 leaders, with Italy's Giorgia Meloni at 43%, Canada's Justin Trudeau at 41%, and US's Biden at 40%.

Club at the Hub

The G20's status as the valued club at the hub of a growing network of effective global summit governance is high. Modi, as the summit host, has attended the G7 summit and the Quadrilateral summit in Hiroshima in May, hosted the SCO summit in July, and participated in the BRICS summit in South Africa in late August. Modi was due to travel in early September to Indonesia to participate in the East Asia and the ASEAN summits there. He visited Biden in June and Macron in July. The absence of Putin and Xi in New Delhi reduces the Russian and Chinese constraints on the other G20 leaders to reach ambitious agreements.

Summit Experience

At Delhi, the G20 summit experience of the attending leaders is substantial (see Appendix J). The summit's chair, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, has the longest experience. It is his 10th regular annual summit, since coming to Brisbane in 2014, and now hosting his first. The other veterans are Indonesian president Joko Widodo, having also attended since 2014 and hosted in 2022, Canada's Trudeau coming since 2015, Saudi Arabia's Mohammed bin Salman, France's Macron, South Africa's Cyril Ramaphosa, Argentina's Alberto Fernéndez, the European Union's Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel, and Türkiye's Recep Tayyip Erdogan after his third presidential election victory in May.

Another veteran is Brazil's Lula, attending his fifth G20 summit. He was present at the Washington Summit and attended four of the first five summits between 2008 and 2010. He bragged during his most recent election campaign that returned him for a third term as president that he was a founding father of the G20. When he left the Seoul Summit in November 2010 the G20 leaders said farewell to their most well-loved G20 colleague. He comes to Delhi as a member of the governing troika, as the incoming host for 2024.

The relative newcomers will be Germany's Olaf Scholz, Japan's Fumio Kishida, the United Kingdom's Rishi Sunak, Italy's Giorgia Meloni, Australia's Anthony Albanese and Korea's Yoon Suk-yeol. The other absentee will be Mexico's Andrés Manuel López Obrador, represented by his foreign minister Alicia Bércena.


Propelled by these forces, the G20's New Delhi Summit is likely to produce a significant performance. It could possibly produce a stronger one. But Delhi's supply of global governance will not keep up with the growing demand for such governance, fuelled by the unprecedented crises led by climate change. Attention will then turn to the prospects for the next G20 summit, hosted by Brazil in November 2024.

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References and Bibliography

Bhatia, Rajiy (2023). "India's Presidency at midpoint," Gateway House, published in Hindustan Times, June 14. https://www.gatewayhouse.in/at-halfway-mark-how-is-indias-g20-stint-going/.

Bloomberg (2023). "Xi Jinping Planning to Skip G20 Summit While China-India Tensions Mount," Bloomberg, August 31. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2023-08-31/xi-planning-to-skip-g-20-summit-as-china-india-tensions-mount.

Chowdhury, Srinjoy (2023). "Inclusive Growth, Green Development, Climate Finance Among India's Priorities As G20 President," Times Now, 28 May. https://www.timesnownews.com/india/inclusive-growth-green-development-climate-finance-among-indias-priorities-as-g20-president-harsh-shringla-article-100566410.

Economist (2023). "Global Diplomacy é la Modi," Economist, March 4, p. 28.

Editor-in-Chief (2023). "From the Editor-in-Chief," India Today, June 5. https://www.indiatoday.in/magazine/editor-s-note/story/20230605-from-the-editor-in-chief-2384757-2023-05-26.

ET Bureau (2022). "India's G20 Presidency to be Themed 'One World', 'Sustainable Growth,' excerpts from an interview with Anubhuti Vishnoi, Economic Times, August 31. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/india/modis-focus-on-inclusive-development-to-be-reflected-strongly-in-g20-stern/articleshow/92789677.cms.

Foy, Henry, James Politi, John Reed and Joe Leahy (2023). "Xi Jinping's Absence Challenges G20 Status as Global Leadership Forum," Financial Times, September 1.

Foy, Henry, John Reed and Joe Leahy (2023). "Xi Expected To Skip G20 Summit in India," Financial Times, September 1, p. 4.

Griffiths, James (2023). "Record-Breaking Heat Hits China as Country Grapples with Climate Goals and Coal Dependence." Global and Mail, May 31. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/world/article-record-breaking-heat-hits-china-as-country-grapples-with-climate-goals/.

Haidar, Suhasini (2022). "India's G20 Presidency Will Be Inclusive, Action-Oriented: PM Modi." The Hindu, November 16. https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/indias-g-20-presidency-will-be-inclusive-action-oriented-says-pm-modi-as-bali-summit-ends/article66143955.ece.

Hasnain, Atna (2023). "Nine Years of Iconic Leadership Galvanizes India," Brighter Kashmir, June 11. https://brighterkashmir.com/-nine-years-of-iconic-leadership-galvanizes-india-.

Jayaswal, Rajeev (2023). "G20 Nations Close to Sealing Digital Public Infrastructure, Debt, Multilateral Development Banks, Crypto Pacts," Hindustan Times, September 7. https://www.hindustantimes.com/MDB-news/MDB-nations-close-to-sealing-dpi-debt-MDB-crypto-pacts-101694026150263.html.

Kant, Amitabh (2023). "India Has Lot to Offer to the World in Time of Crisis," Economic Times, January 13. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/india/india-has-lot-to-offer-to-world-in-time-of-crisis-amitabh-kant/articleshow/96973120.cms.

Kirton, John (2013). G20 Governance for a Globalized World (Farnham: Ashgate).

Kirton, John and Ella Kokotsis (2015). The Global Governance of Climate Change: G7, G20 and UN Contributions (Abingdon: Routledge).

Kirton, John and Madeline Koch, eds (2022). G20 Indonesia: The 2022 Bali Summit (London: GT Media). https://bit.ly/g20bali

Kirton, John, Ella Kokotsis and Brittaney Warren (2022). Reconfiguring the Global Governance of Climate Change (Abingdon: Routledge).

Kundu, Rhik (2023). "G20 Summit to Develop Roadmap for Crypto Rules," Hindustan Times, September 7. https://www.pressreader.com/india/hindustan-times-lucknow/20230907/282059101581622

Laskar, Rezaul H. (2023). "Draft Text on Ukraine Does Not Go 'Far Enough': EU View," Hindustan Times, September 7. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/g20-summit-negotiations-on-ukraine-crisis-india-s-text-doesn-t-go-far-enough-russia-and-china-stand-isolated-101694027651893.html.


Nandi, Jayashree (2023). "Little Breakthrough Likely on Climate Action, Hints G20 Draft," Hindustan Times, September 6. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/leaked-draft-raises-concerns-over-g20-s-commitment-to-climate-goals-and-emission-reductions-101693940037110.html.

Phadnis, Aditi (2023). "World Knocks on a Door More than Ajar," Business Standard, June 5. https://www.business-standard.com/politics/g20-leaders-summit-2023-the-world-knocks-on-a-door-more-than-ajar-123060400445_1.html

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Please download the PDF version to see the full set of appendices.

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