The climate after Paris

| Updated on March 09, 2018

The pact is a step forward, but sidesteps finance, technology transfer

It is hard to say whether the Paris Agreement on climate change will be as big a game-changer as major world leaders have billed it to be. There are some major takeaways, though. The fact that all countries have agreed to draw up an emission roadmap every five years, taking their development needs (or “national circumstances”) into account, is a step forward. These ‘intended nationally determined contributions’ of each country, which are supposed to increase in ambition, will be scrutinised by an international panel to lend credence and “transparency” to the process. Developing countries have been allowed some time to allow their emissions to peak — which, on the face of it, marks an acceptance of a long-standing development demand (for “climate justice”) made by India and some African countries, with China lending support. However, India will come under increased pressure, as the fastest growing economy and one of the principal emitters, to significantly ramp up its INDC targets. Broadly speaking, climate discourse has entered the post-Kyoto era; “common but differentiated responsibility” finds a place in the Paris draft, but as a subset of a bigger idea — to get the INDC system working.

To restrict global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels by the end of this century, the Agreement lays store by renewables and the creation of carbon sinks. However, to achieve INDC goals, emerging economies need both finance and technology transfer. Paris has been a big let-down in these two respects. What was agreed in earlier climate talks on the Green Climate Fund (GCF) stays — it is supposed to receive $100 billion a year from the developed world from 2020, an amount that will come up for review only in 2025. The GCF has very little in its kitty as of now, but there is nothing in the Agreement to ensure that the situation will change after 2020. Add to this the lack of specific outcomes on transfer of intellectual property and it would seem that a transition to renewables is easier said than done. A deadlock in this area awaits out-of-the-box approaches, going beyond the disagreements over intellectual property in the WTO.

It is not surprising that the Agreement has seemingly left both the developed and the developing world happier. While the former has been let off the hook on finance, the latter can fall back on precisely this lack if it fails to implement its INDCs! If India sees itself as a growing economic and strategic power it must play a pro-active role, both in future climate talks and other multilateral forums, in ensuring that Paris’ climate goals are adhered to. It could contribute to the GCF. Rather than seek refuge under the Kyoto Protocol, it should approach the needs of its 300 million energy-deprived as a governance issue. India and the world have come a long way since the Kyoto Protocol was enforced. Global climate has become a pressing concern, but there is greater awareness and technology at our disposal.

Published on December 13, 2015

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