Why Paris means nothing

A Srinivas | Updated on March 09, 2018


The idea of ‘development’ has not been challenged

The Paris climate meeting was a damp squib. OECD businesses and governments refused to put their money where their mouth was — they failed to back their pious concerns with money and technology. What options does that leave the world with? The usual mechanisms cannot be relied upon. Cap and trade will fail if the price of ‘carbon credits’, which would have to be purchased by those who pollute beyond the limit, falls. This will happen in a country of imperfect institutions like ours. With technologies that reduce the cost of clean coal and wind hard to come by, the only way out is to create carbon sinks (grow and preserve trees) and – most important of all — be content consuming less.

We — or 300 million Indians, the population of the US — need to think about our lifestyle choices, rather than outsource the task of making the planet more livable to ‘markets’, businesses and governments. Paris has made this abundantly clear. As a first step, the discourse on climate must become a part of the political agenda, the way it has become in Germany thanks to the Green Party. But as an emerging economy with an aspirational, young population, this looks like a tall order. The general elections last year were won on an aseptic promise of ‘development’ — creating jobs in urban, industrial India, because that’s where the young can earn well and supposedly ‘live well’.

When the government makes a statement in Parliament on the Paris Agreement, the last thing to expect is a philosophically informed, or even honest debate. The needs of the 300 million energy deprived will be held up as an excuse not to disturb the lifestyles of 200 million at other end. We’ll remain ‘green’, producing more hydel power, more nuclear power, more cars, more… The entire political class, from Left to Right, would approve — because India of the imaginings of Gandhi and Lohia has been forgotten.

A Srinivas Senior Deputy Editor

Published on December 16, 2015

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