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  • MODERATOR:

    Hello and welcome to a web chat with Nitin Sethi on 'New alignments ahead of the Paris climate talks'


    NITIN SETHI:

    Hello everyone!


  • A

    ADIL ISLAM

    There seems to be no answer to the question "Who should pay?" Should it ONLY be the developed countries, which are the major contributors, or should it also be the developing ones, which are most vulnerable to the effects? What according to you is the best and practically implementable answer to this?

    NITIN SETHI

    The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change makes it clear that only developed countries (annexe I in climate jargon) have to pay for their accumulated emissions. But, that is not going to happen. Developing world is already paying for its actions through its own pocket where it can, especially the emerging economies. The best and the ideal situation is well past and I dont think the developed countries - EU, US and others - are willing to pay entirely by the polluter's pay principle. So far from the US $ 100 billion annually promised by 2020 less than US $ 11 billion has come from developed country public funds to the Green Climate Fund. Clearly its a dismal picture. The question then is not to be practical but to drive a hard bargain at Paris. Practicality favours the recalcitrant. Its like saying, well the US and EU dont want to pay so lets not ask it to pay. Thats practical but that is not right.


  • S

    SHASHI

    Dear Nitin, can you please explain or simplify in layman terms how these climate change talks affect the common man. Or rather, what should we look forward to from these talks?

    NITIN SETHI

    Dear Shashi i would think they impact common people and our future generations in two ways. If we do not get a good ambitious agreement in Paris then climate change will only get worse. In real terms it means more erratic and unpredictable weather and you can well imagine the impact of that on our agriculture and economy. As a developing country we are unable to cope with the natural calamities that take place at the moment. Imagine them becoming more frequent and/or more devastating. Two, if we do not have a just and equitable agreement - where countries are asked to undertake only their fair share of burden to reduce emissions - then developing countries would have to take on an economic burden that shall slow down their future growth. Again, to give you an example in real terms - perhaps be forced to buy renewable energy at far higher prices or take up expensive technologies which will further increase the cost of living for our poor. We face a double risk from the Paris talks - both have to be kept in mind when India negotiates the final agreement. The long term risk of a low ambition deal exacerbating climate change and the short term risk of our economies being restricted from growing by artificial barriers.


  • S

    SWAMINATHAN

    Do these talks really have the potential of translating ground reality into reduced carbon emissions for the world? If yes, when can we feel the impact? Is there any monitoring mechanism on implementation of national targets, especially on developed countries and the effect of non-adherence to these standards?

    NITIN SETHI

    The talks are likely to deliver an agreement which will see relatively greater effort to reduce emissions than has been undertaken before. Will it be enough? No. The world will have to increase its efforts in coming efforts. The impact of these changes will be slow but say in the case of India you can already see the increased deployment of solar power, better more energy efficient appliances in the market, LED and CFL bulbs replacing old lighting systems. But more will be requires in coming years. The Paris agreement draft does propose several ways to monitor the national targets. A large set of options currently on the table suggest that countries shall monitor their regulations and then report what they have done or not done to the international community. The draft agreement does not have on offer any penalty so to say. Such penalties, many suggest, do not work at the international levels between countries. Its best to create a regime, they say, where countries work on mutual trust. To give an example, if Bangladesh reneges on its pledge, a US can come down and ask for penalty but would it work the other way round in the real world? No it wont, we know. So best is to create a regime that encourages all to work and there is a disincentive to walk out of the agreement at a later stage - its a tough lock in to achieve, i agree. We have seen developed countries walk out on Kyoto Protocol before and that was a much more strict regime than what Paris proposes to be


  • K

    KETKI

    What deal can we expect at the end of the conference, given the present scenario and the past COP experience?

    NITIN SETHI

    Ketki, journalists are bad at predicting things: look at our record in guessing election results. but, let me hazard a guess. We expect a core Paris agreement and some other sets of documents being agreed to by the countries. The core agreement will not push countries to do too much in the short run (between 2020-2030). It will be a low ambition deal, as some call it. But it could set in place a mechanism by which countries are asked to periodically relook at their pledges and see how they can be revised upwards in coming years. Again, I dont think the developed world will commit to anything substantial in terms of delivery on climate finance and technology to the developing world. If developing countries stick together at the crunch hours (which is rare considering all the various pressures and calculations they have to do for real political survival) then they could drive a hard bargain on finance. We would perhaps see the wall of differentiation between obligations of rich and the developing world taking a hit at Paris. Whether it will crumble entirely or not is again something to watch out for and will depend a lot on India.


  • A

    AKASH

    Sir, will the Paris talks be fruitful for developing countries like ours? Or is it more likely to be the way developed countries want things to be? Is it not true that the wind turbines and solar panels across Europe, America and China are hardly curtailing carbon emissions?

    NITIN SETHI

    Dear Akash, Its going to be an agreement between more than 190 countries all agreeing by consensus. That is a tough one to achieve so there are bound to be some compromises. But, yes developed countries are always able to stretch their influence far beyond their boundaries at such negotiations. We will certainly not reach an agreement that meets all developing country needs. At best developing countries will be able to secure a bit of their future carbon space and get the developed world to move a bit less sluggishly on reducing their emissions - at best an incremental gain is what i see coming out of Paris. On your question on solar and wind cutting emissions in the global North: moving to renewable helps avoud future emissions somewhat. In their absence the countries would have added more fossil fuel based power. The real question is that the per capita energy consumption levels of the developed world is pretty high to begin with and only increasing in many cases. This excessive energy consumption is not being tackled in most cases and that eventually is what would be required to stabillise the emissions on the plant in the long run unless the world discovers silver bullet technologies in coming years.


  • A

    ADHARSH

    In the West, there seems to be a concerted push away from clean coal finance. What can India do to address this issue, given our inevitable future reliance on clean coal? On this front, which countries would be open to a joint action with India?

    NITIN SETHI

    Adharsh, there is a bit of duplicity in the rhetoric on that push for disinvestment in clean coal. The developed world continues to consumer far higher levels of coal energy on a per capita basis than developing world including India. Its taken the low cost route to increasing energy availability for decades and now when its found cheaper options like shale gas etc or built new technologies its asking countries like India to take the expensive route out. If it were an honest move to a cleaner world, the developed countries would also provide these technologies and the resources for the poorer countries to make the transition and do things differently. But that we havent seen happen and is unlikely to happen in Paris. Indian govt proposes to add renewable at unprecedented rates in coming years - no country has so rapidly deployed renewable energy before - and yet to provide power to millions in coming some decades India will have to also ramp up its coal production. Perhaps, as some experts suggest, the coal production, would stabilise by 2030-40. If developed world stops wanting to make profit out of a crisis they could reduce the costs of intellectual property resources or buy these out and spread the clean technologies faster to developing countries - that would wean countries like India off coal faster than the rate they proposed to do so now


  • R

    RAGHU

    Sir, India currently puts economic development ahead of environment on its priority list. Do you think an economic development without considering environment simultaneously will be sustainable? And, do you think India's plan on Carbon emission will attract criticism and a slowing of process in Paris? A BBC article says India could be one of the main hindrances in reaching an agreement in Paris...

    NITIN SETHI

    Raghu, i do think that a sustainable growth pattern requires both growth and environmental concerns to move hand in hand. Easier said than done but an excessive dose of one at the cost of the other is bound to have adverse consequences for the society. If you compare India with other developed and developing countries, i think on the carbon emissions front India would rank a leader - check the ' civil society fair share' report online. On domestic issues of pollution, sharing of revenues from natural resource i think we need to do a lot more and are deeply lacking. The reference to the BBC article: I would think there is a normative bias if BBC said that. Yes, India could be a hindrance to a bad agreement and it should be to a BAD agreement. And the developed world alone cannot decide what is a good agreement. A good agreement cannot be containing only what they want and step away from the needs, wishes and interests of the developing and poor world. So, I suggest one should not look at the Paris talks and see which country is 'blocking' or 'being proactive' but looking at what each country or blocks of countries is asking for and how fair it is for the World


  • H

    HARRY

    Are these climate change talks really fair? The developed countries have abused the environment through the past century in their rush for growth. Or are the developing economies only going to be further penalised with stiffer carbon norms?

    NITIN SETHI

    Dear Harry, well life is not fair. Hard reality is that geopolitical and economic prowess often dictates terms. Developing countries have to fight for their carbon space within that reality. The best hope for a developing country with hopes of economic growth are to be able to bargain hard for the best under the circumstances and stand its grown on some fundamental non-negotiables which if breached would have really bad adverse impacts on the people of the country


  • A

    ADHARSH

    Would announcing a peak emission deadline help our cause at the negotiations? Can India expect some sort of "India exception" at the talks?

    NITIN SETHI

    Adharsh: No, submitting a peaking year at this stage of Indian development just does not make sense. We are at the bottom of the pile when it comes to per capita energy consumption - near sub-saharan Africa levels. taking a too early peaking year would cap the energy consumption levels at such low rates in future. Giving too distant a number would be vague because its hard to predict how technologies will change in a decade - no one could have guessed the telephony revolution two decades back. There is no exception at these talks. Everyone has to follow the set rules of the games so everyone has to work and negotiate to ensure the rules are set on principles, are fair and equitous while they push countries to more ambitious actions. There should be no need for India to seek an exception if what it is asking is just and fair to begin with - it should be India's right to have it then.


  • V

    VIDYA KUNNATH

    Ahead of the Paris talks, a column in the Economist says the problems with current renewable power technologies is serious. Do you think there should be a deeper discourse on innovation in this sector?

    NITIN SETHI

    Absolutely. Even in the Indian context I dont think we are looking at the rapidly changing scape of solar renewable energy deployment and what it entails seriously. The economics of what we are planning, the hidden subsidies in it and what kind of technology shifts we are locking the country into - are we front loading our investment in solar tech that would be redundant in five years? These are questions that need answers and very few are looking for them at the moment


  • MODERATOR:

    Thanks, Nitin, for answering our readers' questions on 'New alignments ahead of the Paris climate talks'


    NITIN SETHI:

    Most welcome.


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