India should assume a more assertive role

Formulating a credible INDC is the first and most basic step. Working towards developing a meaningful peaking year is the next

The world’s most important climate talks are coming up at the end of this year in Paris. The French presidency is leading an unprecedented climate diplomacy drive — working tirelessly to bring countries together beforehand in the hopes of making progress towards a global deal.

The world’s most important climate talks are coming up at the end of this year in Paris. The French presidency is leading an unprecedented climate diplomacy drive — working tirelessly to bring countries together beforehand in the hopes of making progress towards a global deal. The latest such consultations took place last month as “informal ministerial consultations” that brought together 40 delegations and 30 Ministers.

To limit the global rise in temperature to two degrees Celsius, considered the benchmark for ‘dangerous’ climate change, countries have agreed to submit their ‘intended nationally determined contributions’ or INDCs. INDCs are bottom-up commitments from nations defining the extent of their emissions reduction contribution towards this global goal. Nations were requested to submit their INDCs by the end of March 2015, but not later than October 2015. Initial calculations suggest that total submissions account for only 56 per cent of global emissions.

The most significant development in the discussions is the concept of a “peaking year”. A “peaking date” is a time in the future until when emissions are expected to grow, and is likely a function of anticipated growth plans and energy use. China, the world’s largest emitter, says its emissions will peak in 2030. The European Union (EU) is committed to its previously announced target of 20 per cent cuts off 1990 levels by 2020. Ethiopia, one of the world’s poorest nations is set to reduce its total emissions starting 2030. The announcement of a “peaking date” has been extensively applauded as countries’ — more specifically, China’s — willingness to act as a major player in climate change mitigation.

But where is India’s INDC? What will India’s position in Paris be? Like others, India committed to INDCs in 2009. They are expected to soon be reviewed and released, in time for Paris summit.

India is the fourth largest emitter and despite our $2 trillion GDP, over 30 per cent of the population does not have access to electricity. Some 21 per cent lives below the poverty line. This means India needs a lot of “headroom emissions” to grow before it we can think of slowing down.

But, we are also seen as a major economic player. We should act the part. Especially since there is so much happening at home.

Consider just these initiatives: India’s total green energy commitment is 175GW — over five times the current amount. The Indian Railways has announced several energy conservation measures. Urban metro transport is being contemplated as part of the smart cities project. Cars are moving to Bharat-VI emissions norms. The point is, it all adds up. All of this could be bundled into an INDC and become the first step in climate diplomacy. But, to what end? We should keep our eyes on the ball. A two degree goal means that global emissions must peak by 2020. INDCs should therefore be developed with this target in view.

“Peaking years” are a function of economic growth, energy use and population increases.The concept of a “peaking year” is an important step in climate negotiations, not because it sets a particular date per se, but because it begins a conceptual shift away from the current outdated classification of nations under “Annex-I” (so called “developed” economies) and “Non-Annex-I” (so called “developing countries”). According the U.N.’s classification, China the world’s largest emitter is in the same “non-Annex I” bucket as Congo, possibly the world’s poorest country. If the current discussion is on climate finance then a new benchmark must be set for determining reduction rigour.

Per capita GDP as the basis

GDP per capita would perhaps the most logical way of determining a new benchmark. For a diverse country like India, its leadership quotient could be a sum of all actions currently being undertaken to meet its infrastructure needs; and its “additional” quotient could seek financing for meeting the incremental costs of greening more basic energy needs to cater to say, the segment of India without basic energy access.

Either way, it is time that India assumed a constructive role in the international arena. It is time it began to move away from traditional alliances such as “like minded developing countries” and crafted new links that are more in sync with the country’s growth plans. Formulating a credible INDC is the first and most basic step. Working towards developing a meaningful “peaking year” is the next. We have no dearth of skills and institutional capacities to do this, and it should be our imperative as a strong, emerging economy to do so..

Source: The Hindu

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