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LIMA CONFERENCE INDCs the basis of a new global climate treaty-- for Bank interview

source: BSC CHRONICLE FEB 2015
INDCs the basis of a new global climate treaty
           Following 36 hours of non-stop parleys that brought the curtains down on the UN global climate conference in the Peruvian capital of Lima on Dec 14, negotiators from more than 190 countries signed on a deal under which each signatory will present its plan for tacking its greenhouse gas emissions early 2015.  Termed Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), it will be the basis of a new global climate treaty to be negotiated at Paris later in the year.  But a country can pledge to cut emissions by as much as it wants, and there will be no systematic or binding outside review of performance.
           India stuck to its long-standing position that the formula for burden sharing of cutting emissions should make the developed countries pay much more than the developing ones, and that concerns like adaptation, mitigation, capacity-building, technology and finance must all be factored into the  estimation of INDCs.
         The concept of INDCs combines the bottom-up approach to the problem with the top-down approach.  The latter, in vogue till now, makes cutting emissions a collective responsibility.  In bottom-up approach, however, countries estimate and propose the scale of their emission cuts in accordance with their sovereign interests and objectives, economic and technological capabilities, and historical compulsions.  The term `intended’ signifies that the proposed actions are voluntarily determined, ie not legally binding, and the expression `nationally determined’ means that individual nations are at liberty to choose their own courses of action.  Largely an idea introduced and promoted by the developing countries led by India, INDCs represent a non-coercive, more nuanced, and thus fairer, basis for global cooperation on climate change.
     Conscientious self-regulation of climate issues is not the worst option for the world in general and the developing nations in particular, given that it leaves space for sovereign dissidence from consensual or other forms of majoritarian international pressure.  A case in point is the self-regulated reduction seen in emissions by American companies following the publication of the Toxic Release Inventory, a public record of harmful emissions in the US.  The case is a significant precedent because the nature of the climate change problem calls for global action in a world that has not yet moved beyond the idea of national sovereignty in all matters.
     The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says global temperature rise must be contained within 2oC of the average global temperature during the pre-Industrial age to avert catastrophic environmental consequences.  This will require annual greenhouse gas cuts of 40-70 per cent by 2050 compared to the levels in 2010, and zero emissions growth by 2100.  Top polluters have all announced plans to deal with this prognosis.  Under the terms of a recent agreement between America and China, the former has undertaken to reduce its emissions in 2025 by 26 to 28 per cent vis-à-vis 2005.  China will reciprocate by peaking its emissions in 2030 and increasing the pressure of India.
     Is this pressure justified? Here are some facts: India is estimated to have emitted 1900 million metric tonners (MMT) of harmful substances in 2012, making it the fourth largest polluter after China (8500 MMT), the US (5400 MMT) and the EU (3800 MMT).  Russia is narrowly behind India with 1800 MMT, and Japan with 1300 MMT is the sixth biggest polluter.  Even the most liberal estimate of India’s emissions to 2030 pegs them at 4,000 – 5,000 MMT, which is far below the per capita emissions US and Chins have pledged under the agreement.
     While the Sino-American agreement is bilateral and non-binding, and Russia, Japan, Canada and Australia have not done what they had promised to do under the Kyoto Protocol, India has already committed itself to a 20-25 per cent reduction in carbon emissions intensity (amount of carbon dioxide intensity (amount of carbon dioxide emitted annually upon GDP) below 2005 levels by 2020.  Russian leader Putin is a well-known detractor of the science of anthropogenic climate change, and earlier in 2014,  Australia not only repealed a statute on carbon tax but also closed down its department of Climate Change.  All this leaves little incentive for India to agree to further emission cuts at the 2015 Paris summit.
     Back, home, critics like Sunita Narain have grown skeptical about the Lima accord, but the Govt. sounds proactive.  Minister Prakash Javadekar said that govt. would reveal in Jun how it intended to lower its pollution-producing rate.  Indeed, by increasing its use of renewable sources of energy.  India will not only contribute to climate change management but also enhance its energy security.  We will have to insist, like, China, that no reference is made to our annual emissions cuts till we attain stabilization a la the developed countries.

     It is thought that the share of non-conventional energy sources in our energy mix will rise to 18 per cent in 2030 from 6 per cent today, and we can also make determined efforts to raise our installed solar power capacity to 1,00,000 MW by the same time.  India will also have to strive hard to procure time-bound commitments on technology transfer and finance from the main polluters.

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