India's targets for the new climate change agreement provided more than just numbers for the Paris deal. It signalled to other countries what red-lines India is likely to stick to as non-negotiable when the talks enter crunch hours.
Indian and global civil society as well as think tanks were quick to almost unanimously approve the emission intensity reduction and energy mix targets for 2030 as ambitious and more than a fair share of the global burden for India to take on.
In its intended nationally determined contributions (INDC), the government drew up where the country stands on different development and emission metrics to showcase how it was not responsible for the problem to begin with.
Observers who track the granular details of jargon-filed climate change negotiations also noted the messaging and the language used by India to clarify its positions for the key issues in the Paris agreement.
While environment minister Prakash Javadekar said most of the resources would be raised domestically, INDC in several instances predicated India's actions on transfer of technology and funds from the rich countries, a continued existence of the principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibility and a Paris agreement that does not block India's developmental imperatives.
With Prime Minister Narendra Modi deploying the phrase 'climate justice' on repeated occasions, INDC, too, highlighted it, noting, "The critical issue for developing nations is the gap between their equitable share of the global carbon space and the actual share of carbon space that will be accessible to them. The transfer of appropriate technologies and provision of adequate finance will have to be a determined contribution of the developed countries."
"With developing countries like India moving out of their comfort zones to take ambitious action, it is only fair that India puts pressure on developed countries to respect the principles and provisions of the Convention and fulfil their commitment and say no to a weak agreement in Paris," he added.
Just like other large developing economies, India, too, has sought to protect itself from adverse results at Paris. "The Paris agreement is yet to be finalised. The caveats are there as caution against the odd chance that some countries might try and force an agreement, which is not equitable and not based on principles of common but differentiated responsibility. How these voluntary and domestic contributions of countries would be legally bound in the agreement and how they would be reviewed is still open to negotiations, so developing countries, including India, have left the caveats in place," explained one senior Indian official involved in the negotiations.
Another official said, "If the Paris agreement was not there, would we still take these actions? The answer is yes." But, would India bind itself into a bad agreement? INDC suggests it won't, several negotiators pointed out.
For one, they noted that any explicit reference to developing countries not being able to shift to clean coal technologies under restrictions emanating from the Paris agreement could be a deal breaker. Even with an unprecedented quantum leap in renewables, India would still need to substantially increase its coal production in the coming years to meet the quadrupling of demand for power.
They also noted the recent attempt to stitch together a joint statement on climate change with US on the Prime Minister's visit to Washington had hit a rough patch when the Obama administration asked for a softer tone on references to differentiation and developed countries' financial obligations. They pointed back to the minister's statements that while India would do much more than fair from its domestic resources, it was not willing to do away with the principles that form the bedrock of the UN climate convention.
Negotiators and observers predict some of the trickiest elements of the Paris agreement where operationalising these principles is likely to see heated debates. One, how countries' contributions to reduce emissions is periodically reviewed and how this review is linked to the provision of finance and technology from the developed world. Two, how the contributions - at present, a voluntary target - are legally bound into the new agreement. Three, how the core of the Paris agreement gives equal weight to all elements of the deal and not just mitigation and the review.