While India needs to be seen as a responsible global citizen, it's important to keep in mind the rich world's emission levels have actually risen, not fallen - India taking on commitments won't fix this.
R K Pachauri" height="83" alt="R K Pachauri" hspace="5" width="68" align="left" src="/newsimgfiles/2009/november/03112009/110409_01.jpg" />R K Pachauri
Director General, TERI
‘A big polluter like China comes across as wanting to curb greenhouse gas emissions. India has a GHG-plan but unless this is tabled, we come across as spoilers’
The issue of whether India should change its position on climate change is largely academic. In reality, India’s climate change position has already undergone progressive transformation with the establishment of the Prime Minister’s Advisory Council on Climate Change and its formulation of the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC). The overview of the NAPCC clearly states, “our approach must be compatible with our role as a responsible and enlightened member of the international community, ready to make our contribution to the solution of a global challenge, which impacts on humanity as a whole”. The NAPCC includes eight separate missions, the very first being the solar energy mission, with plans to set up approximately 20,000 Mw of solar capacity by 2020. This is clearly a deviation from business as usual, because India has promoted only coal-based thermal or hydro power on this scale.
It is significant that the NAPCC has huge benefits for India itself while contributing to the solution of a global problem. One major objective of this National Action Plan is to attain energy security. On the basis of a detailed modeling exercise carried out by The Energy and Resource Institute (Teri), we can project that on a business-as-usual basis, India would be importing 750 million tonnes (mt) of oil by the year 2031 and 1,400 mt of coal. We as a nation would, therefore, be very vulnerable to increases in prices of oil as well as coal. Were there to be a sharp increase in oil prices, such as that over a year ago when they reached $147 per barrel, the Indian economy would get battered severely. In some respects, therefore, the NAPCC should be seen as making a virtue of necessity. Against this reality, unfortunately, our postures in the international arena have been misplaced. Indeed, China with almost four times our levels of per capita emissions has been effective in projecting itself as constructive and helpful in limiting GHG emissions, while India through obstinate posturing and often intemperate words in the negotiations has acquired the image of a spoiler. India, therefore, should take early steps to earn some praise particularly for the NAPCC, which represents a serious attempt on our part to assume a responsible and constructive role.
Another reason for a change in posture can be justified on the basis of scenarios 20 years hence. If the global community does nothing, projections by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) clearly indicate several serious impacts of climate change, including sea-level rise, which could threaten the existence of a number of small island states and low-lying coastal areas such as Bangladesh. At that stage, countries that suffer from serious impacts of climate change — as we would too — will list India as one of the nations responsible for the disaster suffered by the most vulnerable and poorest nations of the world. Already, a number of small island states and vulnerable nations in Africa look at India as part of the problem and not of the solution.
It, therefore, makes eminent sense — particularly if India is serious about implementing its NAPCC — to proclaim from the rooftops that this plan reflects India’s commitment to limiting GHG emissions. As an open democratic society, India should have no hesitation or fear from making its own actions transparent to the global community, subject to endorsement and scrutiny by Parliament. Of course, in keeping with the “common but differentiated responsibility” clause of the UNFCCC, India should commit itself internationally only if developed countries meet their obligations in all respects, clearly specifying this as a pre-condition.
India has a deep stake in a strong agreement in Copenhagen not only as a global citizen, but also because the impacts of climate change would affect us seriously. A good agreement in Copenhagen would be important for all developing countries, particularly the least developed and the most vulnerable. By pledging the NAPCC as our global contribution, India would earn respect from these nations and achieve a strong position to bargain for major financing of mitigation and adaptation actions in the developing world.
Finally, India should place the NAPCC on the table in ongoing global negotiations. The benefit from such a position for a country aspiring to permanent membership of the Security Council would be far greater than any perceived losses.
Sunita Narain" height="83" alt="Sunita Narain" hspace="5" width="68" align="left" src="/newsimgfiles/2009/november/03112009/110409_02.jpg" />Sunita Narain
Director, Centre for Science and Environment
‘Emissions in rich countries have gone up by 16% while they were to fall by 6%. To cover up, a new deal is being worked to get countries like India to take part of the burden’
The buzzword in the climate negotiators circle is ‘making a deal’ and for this pressure is mounting on countries like India to be ‘pragmatic and flexible’ in the interests of all. The reason is not difficult to see. The Copenhagen conference of parties is barely a month away and agreement on what the industrialised world will do to cut greenhouse gas emissions is getting out of reach. In fact, data released last fortnight by the UN climate secretariat shows that emissions of the rich industrialised countries have increased by as much as 16 per cent from 1990 levels. Remember these countries agreed to reduce emissions by roughly 6 per cent over 1990 by 2008-2012 under the Kyoto Protocol. So, now that these countries have failed to meet their commitment, the goalposts of climate negotiations have to be changed and fast.
The key objective is to remove the existing distinction between countries responsible for the bulk of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere and the rest of the world. The Framework Convention on Climate Change, which provides the basis of the Kyoto Protocol, makes this distinction out and clear. It puts the onus of first action on the group of countries, which have contributed to the stock of emissions in the atmosphere. These countries have been identified as the ones responsible for creating the problem and so, responsible for cutting emissions to make space for the rest to grow and responsible to pay for the transition in the emerging world. It is critical that this distinction be blurred. It is for this reason that the Kyoto Protocol must be dumped and a new dispensation, which changes the rules of the game be created.
It is for this reason that deal-makers are working overtime to find new and politically palatable ways to ‘sell’ us a new global deal. In India as the word ‘legally binding emissions’ is unacceptable, new sweeter formulations are being worked upon. It is being said that countries like India must take domestic action to cut emissions in their own interests. True. At the same time, it is also added that these domestic actions will be legally binding through domestic legislation. This will create a portfolio of domestic actions, purportedly to show that we are responsible actors and part of the solution, not the problem. It is also added that these actions will be submitted to the international community each year as our willingness to be transparent and credible. And because we have nothing to hide, we will also be willing to be scrutinised by the international community, IMF-style, on the actions we have taken.
All this sounds innocuous and reasonable you will say. But where is it heading? What does it mean in terms of game-changing international agreements?
Firstly, this is exactly the formulation that the US wants to propose to break the multilateral regime of climate agreements. It says actions of countries will be based not on internationally-set targets and schedules, but on domestic legislation. It has proposed a meaningless action of stabilising its emissions by 2020, over 1990 levels. This when the world knows and accepts that countries like the US must reduce by at least 40 per cent over 1990 levels in order to keep the world under the 2°C target.
Secondly, the sweet deal being offered makes us take international commitments, as domestic action (called the ‘national schedule’ in the Australian proposal) will be internationally monitored and reviewed. By doing this, through a sleight of hand, it destroys the hated distinction of historical responsibility and others. India, China and the rest will be committed to take emission reductions, and global inequity will be frozen. Our right to development will be compromised. Most importantly, because the distinction has been removed, the US (and the rest) are no longer ‘liable’ to pay for the low-carbon transition in the emerging world. We will have to make the transition at our own costs, in the global interests.
All this would even be acceptable if the world was really moving towards an effective climate deal. The fact is that it will not. Our recent analysis shows that the richest 10 per cent Indians emit less than the poorest 10 per cent Americans. There is no way to save the planet, unless the US is made to reduce emissions drastically. They have to reinvent growth without pollution. We cannot sweeten this deal.
We must be part of the ‘deal’ in Copenhagen. But the deal we want will not compromise the interests of the poor or the planet. A bad deal is worse than a no-deal. We have to make this clear.