Mon. Feb 26th, 2024


The world stands at a crossroads in its fight to contain the climate crisis and keep the goal of 1.5°C warming alive.

PREMIUM
People walk past a COP28 sign at the venue of the United Nations climate summit in Dubai(AFP)

For India, like other developing nations, the stakes are even higher, with the lives of millions at stake as extreme weather gets increasingly frequent, unplanned development puts sensitive ecology at greater risk, and losses due to unpredictable challenges mounting.

At the UN Climate Summit (COP28) underway in Dubai, the country is looking at a long week of negotiations to balance its environmental credentials and economic needs. A look at some of the key issues for India:

FOSSIL FUEL PHASE-OUT

To limit global warming to no more than 1.5°C, emissions need to be reduced by 45% by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050. For this, countries need to phase out fossil fuels and transition to cleaner energy sources.

While there have been divergent views on “phase out” and “phase down” itself, with a focus on technologies like carbon capture and storage raising eyebrows, India and other developing countries have opposed the language that ties up scaling up of renewable energy with a complete halt on coal projects.

The plan to triple renewable energy capacity by 2030 was first mentioned as a proposal in the Delhi Declaration at the G20 summit in September, under India’s presidency.

Yet, the country, along with China which has the largest installed renewable energy capacity, did not sign a pledge on the same last week.

According to negotiators, India is opposed to the language that suggests a complete halt on the new investments in coal, HT reported on Thursday.

Fossil fuels, mainly coal, still provide 75% of India’s power supply, Wood Mackenzie, a global research and consultancy group, said in a report.

But the government has defended its use of fossil fuels citing lower per capita emissions compared with richer nations and rising renewable energy output.

EQUITY, AND CBDR

The issue of developed nations having benefitted from fossil fuels but continuing investments in new projects has slowed deliberations. Rich countries, led by the US, have pushed for sharing the burden of phasing out with developing nations.

“Where is equity and CBDR if developing countries are being forced to do something that developed countries are still not doing,” an observer told HT.

Common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities is a principle of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change that acknowledges the different capabilities and differing responsibilities of individual countries in addressing climate change.

The principle of CBDR-RC was enshrined in the 1992 UNFCCC treaty. The text reads: “… the global nature of climate change calls for the widest possible cooperation by all countries and their participation in an effective and appropriate international response, in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities and their social and economic conditions.”

METHANE EMISSIONS

Another bone of contention set to derail India’s agenda at the summit is methane. The US and the European Union along with other major economies are pushing for a 30% reduction in methane emissions from the 2020 levels by 2030 to be introduced in the global stocktake text.

But, agreement on this could spell doom for the nearly 60% of the Indian population that is engaged in the agriculture sector.

Methane, a primary component of natural gas and a byproduct of fossil fuel emissions has a much shorter atmospheric lifetime than carbon dioxide – about a decade compared with the centuries it takes CO2 to dissipate – but is over 25 times more potent at trapping heat in the atmosphere than CO2.

COOLING PLEDGE

India has so far refrained from signing the Global Cooling Pledge, the world’s first collective focus on climate-warming emissions from cooling, which includes refrigeration for food and medicine, and air conditioning.

The pledge, which has not attracted as much attention in the news cycle, commits to reducing cooling-related emissions by at least 68% by 2050 compared to 2022 levels.

Cooling emissions are expected to reach between 4.4 billion and 6.1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) by 2050, according to a report by a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) coalition, which also developed the pledge alongside the COP28 UAE presidency.

But India, which is likely to see the greatest growth in demand for cooling in the coming decades (the need was evidenced in the multiple heatwaves this year), has still not joined the pledge.

Reuters quoted Indian government officials saying that they were not willing to undertake targets above those committed to in 1992 under the multilateral Montreal Protocol to regulate the production and consumption of ozone-depleting chemicals and hydrofluorocarbons used in cooling.

CLIMATE FINANCE

In his address at a plenary session at the summit on November 30, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “A small section of mankind has exploited nature indiscriminately. But the whole of humanity is paying its price, especially the residents of the global south.”

During his meetings at the summit, the PM went on to reiterate the country’s stand that India expects a clear roadmap on climate financing.

“Climate finance and climate technology are a very crucial segment of all the global efforts in addressing this challenge of environmental degradation. We expect a clear roadmap to be agreed at COP28 on climate finance which would be important for delivering on the new, collective, quantified goals…,” foreign secretary Vinay Kwatra said last week.

The country’s negotiators are likely to find support in other developing nations, who have said that in the absence of a clear definition of climate finance, there is no clarity on what has been delivered with respect to the $100 billion promised by developed nations.

Developing countries argue that developed nations should provide financial assistance to mitigate and adapt to the consequences of climate change because of their high historical emissions.

In 2009, developed countries finally agreed to provide $100 billion a year to developing countries by 2020. In 2010, the Green Climate Fund – that PM Modi mentioned in his speech — was established a delivery mechanism.



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