Developed world hopes too much from parleys at Paris on climate change without bothering about valid concerns of countries like India. This makes a turnaround vis-à-vis climate change an uphill task, writes Shankar Kumar
Hailed as a defining global conference on climate change, the talks at the Paris summit, however, have not reflected a real convergence of minds on the emission issue. Pressure by industrialised and developed countries on emerging economies like India for caps on carbon emission only continue to complicate the matter, as countries like the US and even China have emitted more carbon dioxide than India so far. The US has released 5.19 billion tons and China 9.86 billion tons in comparison to India’s 1.97 billion tons of greenhouse emissions per year.
India’s stand, known to all major international stakeholders, is that it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 35 percent of 2005 levels by 2030. Also, it has committed to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. India’s determination to expand its generation of energy from renewable sources to 175 Gigawatts by 2022 is also an indication of this. To meet its objective of lesser fossil-fuel consumption, it has started switching sources of fuel wherever possible by key changes in cities and especially public transportation. And so, when in the course of talks on the sideline of the Paris Summit US President Barack Obama tried to prod Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the carbon dioxide emission issue, the latter was candid in disagreeing with him.
Since September 2014, Modi and Obama have met each other seven times at different bilateral and multilateral forums. Obama was chief guest at India’s Republic Day. But despite an apparent ongoing charm offensive from both sides, Obama couldn’t convince Modi of a binding agreement on emissions cuts. “India needs to grow as 300 million people are still without access to energy. We are determined to do so,” Modi said, indicating that his country would not agree to the terms suggested by the summit without a clear differentiation in responsibilities and action between the rich and the developing countries in elements of the proposed deal such as mitigation, adaptation and transparency. However, he assured the US President—whom he is known to refer to by first name—that India would fulfil its responsibilities on climate change while simultaneously ensuring development. Speaking at the plenary session of the summit, Modi strived to drive home the point that India and other developing countries were at the initial stage of development and as such any agreement on emission cuts should take place in the context of climate justice. “We have to ensure, in the spirit of climate justice, that the lives of a few do not crowd out the opportunities for many still on the initial steps of the development ladder,” he said.
Miles to go
To come back to where we began, the two-week long summit, which kicked off on November 30, has miles to go before it can prove itself as one of the century’s defining conclaves on climate change. A group of 77 developing countries, including India, has held that the rich and developed countries which are prime contributors of greenhouse emissions should cut down their emissions to the 1990 level. The US, Russia, Germany, Japan and the European Union have contributed to more than 60 percent of the world’s greenhouse emissions since the initial days of the industrial revolution. It is in this context that the developing countries are insisting that the developed nations, including the US, adhere to the 1992 framework on climate change envisaging ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ based on the stage of development a country is in. They are also upset at developed countries shying away from certain financial responsibilities. Under the UN framework, the developed countries are obliged to provide financial resources and technology and help in the capacity building of developing nations.