India wants compensation for climate damages caused by rich nations

Bloomberg | | Updated on: Oct 23, 2021

Students take part in a global protest against climate change in New Delhi, India, March 15, 2019. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis | Photo Credit: ANUSHREE FADNAVIS

The broad idea is that, based on historical contributions to global greenhouse gases, countries will provide compensation for the damages that pollution will one day cause

India is seeking payment for the losses caused by climate disasters, its Environment Ministry said while laying out the country’s positions on critical issues that will be negotiated at the United Nations’ COP26 climate summit in the coming weeks.

“Our ask is this: there should be a compensation for expenses incurred, and it should be borne by developed nations,” Rameshwar Prasad Gupta, the Ministry’s senior-most civil servant, said on Friday.

He added that India stands with other low-income and developing countries on the matter. Leaders and diplomats from across the globe are set to gather in Glasgow, Scotland, for the annual COP summit, which is seen as a make-or-break meeting to stave off the worsening effects of climate change. Compensation for climate disasters is expected to be a major sticking point at the talks, and the subject is something that India has already raised with US climate envoy John Kerry, according to Gupta.

Also see: UN climate talks: Faint progress on money, none on pollution

Rich countries have added the majority of greenhouse gases causing the planet to warm above pre-industrial levels.

Liability and redress

The 2015 Paris climate agreement included language to address “loss and damage”, but it left questions about liability and redress unanswered. Discussions began as early as 2013 at a previous summit in Warsaw, but the technical details of how such money transfers will occur still hasn’t been thrashed out.

The broad idea is that, based on historical contributions to global greenhouse gases, countries will provide compensation for the damages that pollution will one day cause. Countries that suffer from climate impacts can then lay claim to money for repairs after a climate-fuelled hurricane or flood. But not all disasters are caused by climate change, and scientists have only recently begun the hard work of being able to calculate how much a warmer planet contributed to an extreme weather event.

Also see: India among 11 ‘countries of concern’ on climate change for US spy agencies

India is the world’s third-largest emitter on an annual basis today and among the top ten historical emitters, which means it too will have to contribute money into the pot. Even if India’s pay-in for damages were roughly 4 per cent, the country would stand to get a larger pay-out for the losses it will incur, Gupta said.

“If they want India to be a part, we may be willing,” he added.

Net zero

The country is the only economy among the world’s 10 largest to not have set a goal to zero out its emissions. Even its neighbour China has one for 2060, slightly later than the 2050 target that the US, the UK and the EU are aiming for. Earlier this year, India considered setting a net-zero goal, but it has since backed out. Not all nations need to announce a net-zero target before Glasgow, according to Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav.

Climate financing

“Climate finance hasn’t come in,” said Gupta. “For more ambitious climate goals, let there be more finance” first.

This issue is set to be another talking point at the summit. Developed countries were supposed to provide $100 billion in climate finance to developing countries annually, starting in 2020. The money would be used for projects that reduce emissions and help countries adapt to warming. The latest figure stands at about $90 billion, and hopes for the full commitment are dimming as the Glasgow conference approaches.

Per capita consumption and fairness

As with past COP meetings, India’s delegation also plans to bring up the point of fairness. The country’s annual per capita emissions stand at about two tons of carbon dioxide, compared to more than 16 tons for the US and less than half of the global per capita average.

Also see: A vision to facilitate sustainable development

The recent energy crunch — marked by soaring natural gas prices — has also given India ammunition to continue using coal, the only fossil fuel which it has in abundance. That’s going to be a problem for the UK, the host country, with COP26 President Alok Sharma having said that the Glasgow talks could “consign coal to history.”

India Prime Minister Narendra Modi has confirmed that he will join the COP26 summit along with 120 other heads of State. The conference runs from October 31–November 12.

Published on October 23, 2021
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