India to press for equity at climate talks
India’s strategy at the Paris Climate Change summit will be to work with emerging economies and press the developed world to concede that responsibility for cutting carbon emissions after 2020 cannot be shared equally by rich and poor nations. Two major issues that New Delhi will focus on at the Conference of the Parties (CoP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) are failed ambitions on transferring low carbon technologies to the developing world, and the lack of support for a plan to fund mitigation and adaptation efforts. The UN Convention on Climate Change has followed the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR), reflected in the Kyoto Protocol and reinforced last year at Lima. Under this, poor countries were not required to cut emissions. India is emphasising this again, informed sources in the Ministry of Environment and Forests said, and demanding that developing nations be allowed greater room in cutting emissions beyond 2020, as they seek to eliminate poverty through fast-paced economic growth.
The Modi government is approaching the CoP with the view that the domestic actions proposed under the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) submitted to the UNFCCC are truly progressive. National per capita emissions are very low at 1.56 tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent (about a tenth of some developed nations), and India’s share of cumulative global emissions only 3 per cent. Given the large green cover in the country, these emissions are already accounted for in terms of absorption of greenhouse gases. One independent assessment of the INDC recently described India’s offer as exceeding its fair share. Yet, there is a concerted attempt to bring India under pressure on the eve of the CoP, including by the United States, to paint the country as ‘obstructionist’. “This is unfair, uncalled for and deliberate,” an official said, pointing out that the UNFCCC had welcomed the INDC submitted by India.
In the run-up to the CoP, India has been engaging 60 countries ranging from the Small Island Developing States and Least Developed Countries to the developed nations to evolve a consensus. Two areas of failure in the climate process so far, according to Indian officials, are creation of the $100-billion annual climate finance fund that had been initiated six years ago in Copenhagen, and transfer of green technologies. “The finance pledge has been diluted at successive Conferences of the Parties, and only a promise of $10.2 billion has been made at present,” said an official. If innovators of green technologies have to be compensated, it could be done using the fund, but there should be no access barrier to any country. Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar has been saying that disaster should not be used to generate profits.
Another contested area is that of transparency norms for use of funds. This has been proposed by the industrialised countries in the form of a common framework from 2020, but has also not found favour since it goes against the principle of differentiated capabilities. The overall approach of the rich countries is seen as ‘expanding the base of contributors while shrinking the base of recipients’. India is also taking the lead in demanding the major share of the carbon space (the ceiling of 800 or 900 gigatonnes of carbon emissions that the earth can still absorb to keep a rise in global temperature below the agreed 2 degree Celsius mark), for the developing world. Cutting emissions to stay within this limit requires robust finance and technology transfer mechanisms.
India and other developing countries argue that far from making progress on flow of assistance, advanced nations are trying to include regular overseas development funding under the 100 billion dollar category, in a case of “fudging and double accounting.” One highlight of the Indian approach to curbing emissions is a major scaling up of renewable energy to 175 GW by 2022, outlined in the INDC. The National Solar Mission alone is to provide 100 GW. However, there is no escape from boosting conventional capacity too, involving some emissions. That is because, if renewables are to provide such a large quantum of power, there have to be other conventional sources, such as thermal, to provide capacities to handle fluctuation in the generation from green sources, an official points out. This is being done in the form of a green corridor that will be deployed during fluctuations. Overall, India’s effort along with other developing countries such as Brazil, China and South Africa would be to reinforce equity in any climate agreement arrived at in Paris, and for developed countries to enhance action on cutting their carbon emissions in the period before 2020.