New climate order

| Updated on April 16, 2021

India’s climate targets cannot be dictated by US. It should flag finance issues

The Biden administration has left no stone unturned to convey to the world that the US’ economic revival hinges on a climate impetus and that it expects the rest of the world to follow suit. The US has rejoined the 2015 Paris Accord, repudiated by ex-President Donald Trump, by targeting a zero emissions economy by 2050. This puts it on a par with Europe, which has made similar commitments. But the US seems keen to use climate as an instrument to pursue strategic and economic goals. India has rightly called out this overreach, arguing that it cannot be arm-twisted in setting its emission reduction goals. Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar has reiterated the climate justice principle, saying that the rich countries, which have historically carbonised the atmosphere to achieve their current living standards, cannot assume the moral high ground now.

Besides, India is on course to meeting its Paris Accord commitments in terms of reduction in emissions intensity of GDP (carbon per unit of output), and in increasing the share of renewables in installed power capacity. The exponential rise in India’s solar capacity in recent years has contributed to the reduction in emissions intensity. US climate envoy John Kerry acknowledged these gains during his recent visit to India. But as the third largest annual emitter after China and US (although it accounts for just three per cent of historical emissions, against 25 per cent by the US, 22 per cent by Europe and 13 per cent by China), India might be expected to up its promises at the Glasgow climate ministerial to be held in November. In the preparatory meeting to be held next week, India must flag the issue of climate finance as a condition for enhancing its climate ambitions. Innovations in mobility, such as electric vehicles, sustainable agriculture, efficient solar cell technology, better batteries and energy efficient buildings are among steps that will further de-carbonise the economy — for which funds and tech transfer are imperative.

As Javadekar has pointed out, the Green Climate Fund, which was supposed to have raised $100 billion annually over the last decade, has come a cropper. Only $7 billion has been mopped up so far. The UNEP estimates the adaptation needs of developing countries at $70 billion a year. In promoting efficient, wind, solar, clean hydrogen and carbon sequestration technologies, the developed world needs to balance incentives for research with sharing of knowhow. Meanwhile, the pandemic delivered a unique outcome: a 7 per cent reduction in emissions in 2020. Similar cuts are needed over the next decade to avert a climate disaster. To this end, it is possible for climate justice and collective responsibility to proceed together.

Published on April 16, 2021

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