A Tightrope Walk On Climate Change


The NAPCC included a pledge that “India will at no point exceed the greenhouse gas emissions of developed countries even as we pursue our development objectives.” The eight missions formulated form the touchstone of the national policy on climate, outlining broad goals and fostering action across various sectors. It also gave direction to the formulation of the State Action Plans on Climate Change (SAPCC), decentralising efforts towards climate change. As of 2014, 32 states and union territories in India have formulated SAPCC drafts. Of these, 19 have been endorsed and the rest are under review.

At the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009, the then environment minister Jairam Ramesh announced that India would cut its carbon emissions by 20-25 percent (1.25 metric tonnes) by 2020 compared with 2005 levels. Cut to the present times and India has pledged to cut its carbon emission intensity by 33-35 percent before 2030. It has also committed to increasing the share of non-fossil fuel based power generation capacity to 40 percent of installed electric power capacity by 2030, and to create an additional (cumulative) carbon sink through additional forest and tree cover equivalent of 2.5-3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2030. “Thus, successive governments have progressively upped the ante on climate change,” points out Ghosh.

“This time India’s stand is a bit stronger because of the commitments it has submitted,” Rakesh Kamal, programme officer, climate change department, Centre for Science and Environment tells Tehelka. “The international community did not expect such action from India and this has given it an edge in the talks.”

On the occasion, India also launched the International Solar Alliance with over 120 countries agreeing to come together to harness solar energy. The Alliance was inaugurated on the opening day of the COP21 held in Paris. “With such initiatives, India is seen as stepping forward and showing its plans to lead the world towards renewable and clean energy,” says Ghosh.

But whether India can maintain its stance on equity in COP21 will be much anticipated. “The biggest fear is that India’s stand on cbdr might be diluted,” says Kamal. The fears stem from the release of the first draft of the Paris climate change agreement which was marked in its silence on differentiated responsibilities so much so that Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar had expressed ‘disappointment’ with it.

Barely a week before the cop21, John Kerry, US secretary of state had singled out India as posing a “challenge” to the Paris talks. India in its official response had stated that it would refuse to be bullied. “I want to make it clear that India would not be bullied into accepting the position of developed countries,” said Javadekar in response.

Experts agree that it is crucial for India to stand up to the developed countries for issues such as adaptation, finance and access to green technology. “COP21 in Lima resolved to bring adaptation and mitigation at par, a position which is being avoided by developed countries now. They would like to focus on mitigation alone, especially to corner China and India. It is therefore important that India tries to bring focus back on adaptation,” says Amit Garg, professor at iim Ahmedabad, who along with other scholars bought out the report ‘Climate change and India: Adaptation gap 2015’. The push for mitigation by the developed countries comes as India and China straddle the needs of a growing economy with environmental concerns.

At the same time, others feel India itself must bring more to such international forums. “While at the international level, India pushes for equity, it is important that it internally utilises its resources,” PS Ahuja, a former government official tells Tehelka. “It is crucial that we invest in long-term climate data collection mechanisms which will help us be at a better negotiating position in international platforms.”

Kerry’s statement that the Paris treaty would definitively not be a legally binding one, offers a glimpse of the challenges that lie ahead for the world leaders in COP21. “The question is not whether the Paris meet will result in an agreement but whether it will result in a strong or a weak agreement,” explains Kamal.

India, needless to say, will have a large role to play in the framing of a universal agreement, one that is equitable to all.



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