CLIMATE | India's Concern at COP21 Paris 2015 Global Climate Negotiation
IndraStra Global

CLIMATE | India's Concern at COP21 Paris 2015 Global Climate Negotiation

By Various Sources

Image Attribute : Wikimedia Commons

The Narendra Modi's Government leaves no doubt that its main priorities lie in the area of economic development for India rather than in environmental and climate policy. The new large-scale initiative “Make in India” is aimed at strengthening the manufacturing infrastructure, promoting foreign direct investment, and facilitating technology transfer. Modi hopes this will bring economic growth back up to seven to eight percent annually—from a rather low rate of around five percent in 2014 before he took office.

India’s stance on climate change has blended genuine concern for the issue with a resolute refusal to consider limiting its own emissions.  On the one hand, the Government of India has long expressed its concern over the effects of climate change. It began formulating policies to support renewable energy in its 2008 National Climate Change Action Plan. India’s current Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has been outspoken in calling attention to the challenge of climate change. As Chief Minister of Gujarat he promoted policies to expand renewable energy production and to help the state adapt to the effects of climate change.  But Modi’s personally progressive stance on climate change contrasts sharply with New Delhi’s long-standing refusal to consider limiting India’s emissions while India’s per-capita emissions, at 1.7 metric tons in 2010, remains below the global average of about 5 metric tons.  Successive Indian governments have maintained that poverty reduction and expanding access to energy, not reducing emissions, must be the country’s chief priorities.  At the UN Climate Summit in September, India’s Environment Minister repeated this stance, implying that India would not limit its emissions for at least thirty years.

The major expansion of the manufacturing sector envisioned under "Make in India initiatives" will increase Indian carbon emissions further. India is now the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, but in contrast to China (first largest) and the USA (second largest), it has still not announced a national climate target in the course of the international process under the United Nations Framework 

Globally, the survey says, an overwhelming 78 per cent of the respondents are of the view that their respective countries should sign an international agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions from burning of coal, natural gas and petroleum.

The Indians and Chinese also have vastly differing opinions on whether climate change would take a personal toll on citizens. Almost 69 per cent of the respondents in India say climate change might harm them personally in the near future or in the long run. The corresponding figure for China is only 15 per cent. However, Indians (42 per cent) and Chinese (49 per cent) believe climate change is harming people at present.

In India, there is broad cross-party consensus against outside interference in internal affairs—for instance, through internationally binding agreements. In the global context, India is therefore considered a “country that can’t say yes”, as has been observed in environmental and climate negotiations for many years. In particular, India has been emphatic in stressing the importance of the Common But Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capacities (CBDR&RC) principle contained in the UNFCCC. According to this principle, the burdens of climate policy should be shared in an equitable way and according to the capacities of the country in question. Key parameters are a country’s per capita emissions, historical share of greenhouse gas emissions, and economic capability.

From India’s point of view, this implies that the industrialized countries hold greater responsibility for climate protection and that they should lead the way, allowing developing countries like India the same development opportunities that the industrialized countries enjoyed. India has, in fact, put forward a series of climate policy proposals. In 2007, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced the Singh Convergence Principle (SCP), which was named after him. It states that India’s per capita CO2 emissions should never be higher than those of the industrialized countries. Yet this created the impression that India’s middle class—whose lifestyles and carbon emissions hardly differ from those of the industrialized countries—was hiding behind the country’s large poor population. Environment Minister Jairam SWP Comments 14 March 2015 3 Ramesh announced in 2009 at the Copenhagen Climate summit that India would cut its carbon emissions by 20 to 25 percent up to 2020 compared with 2005 levels.

Reaching a successful agreement in COP21 Paris 2015, requires an ambitious and constructive climate change policy from New Delhi. There have been some promising moves, including a commitment from the Government of India to phase out hydro-fluorocarbons and to significantly increase solar power.  But India must go further, and pioneer a low-carbon development trajectory that reduces poverty and expands access to energy without relying on excessive use of fossil fuels. Washington and the rest of the world can help. But ultimately New Delhi must recognize its crucial role in the Paris 2015 international climate negotiations.

AIDN: 001-11-2015-0397