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US praises India and China's emission reduction pledges

Wants a White Paper under Paris agreement for emission cuts by 2050. But, will not accept legally binding targets

Nitin Sethi  |  New Delhi 

US praises India and China's emission reduction pledges

United States’ special envoy for climate change, Todd Stern, heaped praise on India and China’s emission reduction pledges under the Paris climate change agreement. He also outlined US’s desire to get each country to provide a White Paper on how they would further reduce their emissions by 2050, under the global climate agreement. He was giving testimony to a US senate sub-committee on the Paris agreement, on Tuesday.

Stern, who has been spearheading the Obama administration’s diplomacy on climate change since 2009, said that the US would not agree to a Paris agreement that legally binds countries to the pledges they have made — also known as the intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs).

When asked to comment by a senate member on India’s targets, Stern said, “Prime Minister Modi has made a pledge of adding 175 GW. That is a gargantuan target to achieve by 2022. A tremendous amount.” He also added, “(In) India’s INDC I think the strongest part is the (pledge to achieve) 40 per cent electric power from non-fossil sources by 2030. A part of that is the 175 GW renewable energy capacity target. Which for the economy of size of India, is a vast undertaking. I think that the 40 per cent non-fossil fuel mix (in the electricity capacity) is stronger than India’s emission intensity pledge, for example. But that is quite a significant pledge.”

On China, he said that it had made an “enormous pledge”. He noted that to meet its pledge China would have to add 900 GW of non-fossil sources between now and 2030 while US’s total energy consumption is 1,100 GW at present. “It is more than all the coal used in China today. It’s a huge undertaking.” When asked for the parameters set by the US to measure the success of the Paris agreement, Stern laid out five criteria. He said that the existing INDCs should be ambitious and they should be ratcheted up every five years. He said that countries should be required to submit White Paper on how they would achieve deeper reductions by 2050. He called it a White Paper outlining the strategy to achieve higher targets.

Stern added that the US would advocate a long term goal by the end of the century of decarbonising the economy, which implies deep emission reductions.

As the fifth and last criterion, he said that the US, along with French hosts, would push for inclusion of non-state actors in the agreement, including actions by states, cities, corporates and the bilateral deals between countries. He also said that one of the successes of the US’s advocacy for the Paris agreement has been to breach the firewall between developed and developing countries, referring to the differentiated responsibilities developed and developing countries have under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Sources in the Like Minded Developing Countries (LMDC) group said that they did not get clarity at the on-going formal UN negotiations, yet, on the White Paper the US was talking about and that the group was circumspect about coupling in non-state actors’ contributions to the agreement, which is between countries.

LMDC’s chief spokesperson Gurdial Singh Nijar had earlier pointed out that the global community was already bending back to accommodate the US and its domestic compulsions – which it would not have done for a country that is not a superpower.

US President Barack Obama would need to get a two-third vote favouring a deal from the US senate in case the targets are legally binding under the Paris agreement, experts have explained.

If the targets are not binding and countries only give legal guarantee of trying to achieve it, the experts aver Obama could avoid the need to get a senate approval where the opposition Republicans hold majority. The present draft of the Paris draft holds the options of having a legally-binding ‘implementation agreement’ where the pledges are in particular kept out of any legal obligation.

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First Published: Thu, October 22 2015. 00:08 IST