The 28th edition of the UN climate conference, being held in Dubai, must not be allowed to turn into yet another extended jawboning session. Considerable time has been lost in earlier climate meets because the developed countries would simply refuse to accept that they are largely responsible for the historical overload of emissions in the atmosphere, and therefore must do most of the heavylifting to cut emissions (in other words, climate justice). Meanwhile, extreme climate events have become more frequent by the year, with the poorer countries in particular struggling to cope with their depredations.

However, COP28 has begun on a positive note, by approving a Loss and Damage Fund, to be managed temporarily by World Bank. The contributors as well as the manner in which the funds will be disbursed have to be worked out. A feature of this meet is that it will do a ‘Global Stocktake’ — an appraisal of what has been achieved since the 2015 Paris conference, with the idea of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels. By all accounts, there is a major “emissions gap” — in other words, the difference between actual and ideal emission reduction. A stocktake is expected to show up the extent to which developed countries have fallen short. This information prepares the ground for the submission of another set of ambitions for the decade ahead. India is well on track on this count, having set itself a goal of hitting 500 GW of non-fossil fuel capacity by 2030 (about 178 GW at present) and meeting 50 per cent of its energy requirements from renewables (27 per cent at present, including 10 per cent from hydel and 3 per cent from nuclear power).

Dubai must move towards a new deal on climate finance, even as it is becoming increasingly clear that private capital will substitute multilateral transfers. Measures such as the EU’s ‘Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism’ must be called out, as they militate against climate justice. That said, the pursuit of climate justice is running up against a looming problem. China’s status as a developing country is coming under question when it accounts for a third of current emissions and is the second largest economy. There is also a geo-political problem linked to energy transition. A shift to renewables to the scale envisaged cannot be accomplished without mass use of battery storage. However, the availability of rare minerals required for batteries is restricted to a few countries, notably China.

India’s recently stated ambition to go big on coal output and coal-fired power must be viewed against these constraints. Yet, it must focus on batteries so that the renewables transition is not held up. India’s own Carbon Credit Trading Scheme, and more so its Green Credit Programme which rewards small scale environmental actions hold considerable promise. There is much that India can do in terms of protecting its green cover and cleaning up its industry, without compromising on its livelihood goals. Meanwhile, it must push the envelope on climate finance and justice at COP28.