Some time in 2023, likely mid-April, India will surpass China as being the country with the largest population. It is a timely reminder of the growing influence that India and its activities exert on the rest of the world, and not just because of its size.

Towards the end of 2022, India took on the mantle of G20 leadership. Its leadership slogan ‘one earth, one family, one future’, is particularly apt, underlining how inextricably linked humanity is, not least in suffering and addressing the effects of the changing climate. During 2022, extreme weather events were recorded in the country during 80 per cent of the year, underlining how much India is already suffering the effects of climate change.

Chance to set priorities

The G20 presidency places India on the global stage and allows it to establish its priorities and narratives within the international agenda. This makes 2023 a year to watch: How will India continue to fuel its growing energy needs and what decisions will it take about its energy transition?

The country has made huge strides in improving energy access during the past two decades, with near-universal household access achieved in 2019.

Its challenge now is to continue to develop the energy network and diversify its fuel mix to meet growing demand. This presents India with the opportunity to take bold action, putting it on a path to realising strong, equitable, shared growth, while also averting the worst effects of the changing climate.

India’s energy mix is carbon intensive. Coal is its primary source of fuel, accounting for approximately 70 per cent of electricity generation, and the country also powers much of its transport through oil.

As a result, India is the world’s third-largest emitter of CO2, despite low per capita CO2 emissions. Unlike developed nations with mature GHG infrastructure, India has yet to build a lot of its GHG inventory.

This suggests a need for the country to significantly reduce its reliance on fossil fuels. In the interim, it must make heavy investment into methods to combat the emissions problem — for example, implementing cleaner operations, stripping emissions of the worst of the GHGs, and looking at carbon capture.

Smooth transition possible

The good news is that the country’s path to decarbonisation could be a net-positive one. India has a unique opportunity to skip this journey by turning to low- and no-emissions technologies.

Already India is the world’s third-largest producer of solar energy and enjoys the lowest renewables costs. Plans to increase renewable energy as part of the mix remain in place, and India is pioneering green hydrogen.

Given this fertile situation, research has pointed to the benefits India would reap from pursuing a Green New Deal. It is estimated that by greening its economy, India could add $1 trillion to GDP by 2030 and $15 trillion by 2070, while also creating 50 million jobs.

The World Economic Forum remains committed to supporting India; it is contributing to the country’s climate and land restoration goals through its Trillion Tree platform,, and during the Annual Meeting 2022, the Forum launched the Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders India, a platform aimed at accelerating the country’s climate action and green transition efforts.

The G20 presidency offers India the opportunity to shape the climate and energy transition agenda at a global level. Reflecting its sheer size and diversity, any successful models it develops can be replicated in other economies, producing a beneficial effect for billions of people. India can establish itself as a role model through its response to these opportunities, potentially having a resounding impact on our collective future.

The writer is Head of India and South Asia, World Economic Forum