Editorial

Winds of change

| Updated on October 27, 2021

The developed world must do more to help developing world combat climate change   -  /iStockphoto

At the Glasgow climate summit, India should offer solutions, yet hold its ground

All eyes are on the upcoming Glasgow climate ministerial that begins on October 31. The world is running out of time to arrest an apocalyptic rise in temperatures from pre-industrial levels. Commitments to reduce emissions, made under the 2015 Paris Accord, are not proving enough to contain the rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, or for that matter even 2 degrees Celsius. Climate scientists say that to cap the rise at 1.5 degrees Celsius, global emissions should be reduced by 45 per cent from 2010 levels by 2030, and finally to ‘net zero’ by 2050. The UN Environment Programme observes that global emissions should fall by 7.6 per cent each year till 2030 “to get on track” to achieve 1.5 degrees Celsius goal (and by 2.7 per cent each year to achieve Paris’ 2 degrees Celsius target). But at current levels of climate ambition spelt out by 195 countries, emissions would actually be up 16 per cent over 2010 levels. At this rate, the world would end up being hotter by at least 2.7 degrees Celsius by the turn of the century. This is a species-threatening prospect. The Glasgow meet should arrest this course.

It is plain that the developed world, which accounts for 75 per cent of accumulated greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere, should take the lead in reducing them, while aiding the rest through technology and finance to do so. The US, still the second largest emitter in absolute terms and among the top few in per capita emissions (about 15 tonnes), has failed the world. Despite accounting for about 16 per cent of total annual emissions (five gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent in about 33 gigatonnes) its climate ambitions are underwhelming when compared with the EU. India stands third in terms of total emissions (just over two gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent per year) but its per capita emissions are barely 1.5 tonnes. India has historically contributed to less than 5 per cent of accumulated emissions. It needs the development space to improve living standards; this aspect is overlooked in the Western discourse that singles out India as a large emitter that has not committed to cuts. India’s promises under the Paris accord are based on a reduction in emissions intensity of GDP. This can be raised in view of the country’s successful renewables transition. A commitment to absolute cuts is not called for. Apart from US, China, Brazil, Australia and OPEC countries must step up their climate ambitions.

The idea of achieving ‘net zero’ emissions by 2050 absolves large polluters of the need to cut emissions steeply by 2030. If ‘net zero’ is to be adopted, the goal should be advanced to well before 2050 for wealthy countries and fossil fuel producers, with a later date for the rest. Climate change needs more funds and tech transfer than the rich world has put on the table so far. The Green Climate Fund, which has come nowhere close to raising $100 billion a year, must expand its kitty. Meanwhile, India should seek private finance and tech. Leaders of the rich world must be taken to task.

Published on October 27, 2021

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