The Indian government is considering submitting two options to the UN on how it plans to tackle climate change – what it can do with its own resources, and what it can do if it gets finances and cheap technology transfers from developed countries

Prakash Javadekar, India's Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change, at the CEEW conference in New Delhi on Tuesday

Prakash Javadekar, India’s Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change, at the CEEW conference in New Delhi on Tuesday

In the year that governments are trying to reach a global agreement on how to combat climate change, the likely foundations of an expected agreement at the Paris climate summit this December are what are called Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) of each country to the effort. All 192 governments and the European Union are scheduled to submit their INDCs to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) during the course of this year.

There is intense global curiosity on what India’s INDC will be. After China and the US, India is the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases (GHG) – though its emissions per head are 30% of that in China and 13% of that in the US.

The two options

Prakash Javadekar, India’s Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change, said on Tuesday, “We are preparing our INDC. And there is something which is still in an idea stage – we may submit two INDC options. The first one will be what we can achieve with our own domestic resources. The second one will show where we can reach if finances are available (from industrialised countries) and technologies are available at affordable cost.”

Javadekar was speaking at a conference organised in New Delhi by the think tank Council for Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW).

The foreign and environment ministers of France – the host of the next climate summit – are scheduled to be in the Indian capital this week. So is the environment minister of Peru – the host of the last summit – and a plethora of international leaders and negotiators. All want to know India’s position at the Paris summit, and many delegates from these countries and international organisations were present at Tuesday’s conference.

Knowing that whatever he said would be relayed by these delegates around the world, Javadekar told them, “Ideologically, we’re very clear that when we say ‘nationally determined’, we’re working under the UNFCCC principle of equity. All that has changed is that the Kyoto Protocol will end, and there will be a new regime where every nation will contribute” to the combat against climate change.

Javadekar was reacting to repeated calls from industrialised countries that emerging economies like China and India shoulder more of the burden to mitigate GHG emissions. India has long held the position that developed nations – who have emitted most of the extra GHG in the atmosphere today from the start of the Industrial Age – take on the major mitigation responsibilities. This is enshrined in the UNFCCC as the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities” of developed and developing countries.

Going by that principle, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol obliged only rich nations to reduce their GHG emissions. But, as Javadekar pointed out, the US did not ratify the protocol, while other countries such as Canada, Japan and Russia have walked out of it.

Taking action at home

The minister said that while India would not act under pressure from any other country, “We will take our own actions” to combat climate change. In this regard, he referred to the plan to produce 100 GW through solar power. “That will save 145,000 tonnes of carbon emissions. And this is before 2020, while the INDCs are supposed to be for the period after 2020.”

“So we will raise the question (in climate negotiations) – will the developed world take such steps before 2020.”

At the same time, Javadekar said contribution from all countries was the way forward. “We have to take action for our own good.” He referred to the eight missions under India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change, and said those plus some new initiatives would form the basis of India’s INDC submission.

But while India was acting and would act on its own, “There are some issues that cannot be wished away,” Javadekar said. “The first issue is cost. Who will pay the extra cost of solar power, for example? In countries (such as India) where indirect taxation is higher, the poor will end up paying more. So the world must come up with real contributions to the Green Climate Fund (GCF), which now has pledges worth a little over US$10 billion.”

“The second issue is technology. New technologies can bring down costs. We understand the need to protect IPR (Intellectual Property Rights). So we are telling the industrialised world, pay your own companies for IPR from GCF. We must get technologies free of IPR cost.”

That is why, the minister explained, the government was considering the idea of submitting two INDCs – one without finances and free technology transfers, and one with both of them built in.

During climate negotiations, there has also been a tussle over when the INDCs should be submitted, with emerging economies expressing the fear that if they submit too early, rich countries will say they are not good enough and demand more. Javadekar said, “We want to present our INDC sooner rather than later,” but did not set a deadline.

Sushil Kumar, Additional Secretary in the ministry, elaborated on the minister’s speech by saying, “India’s climate policy is and will be comprehensive, transparent and ambitious. INDCs will be our best foot forward.” At the same time, he said, “We’ll not revise our INDC under any pressure.”

There has also been a tussle over what the INDCs should contain, with many rich nations wanting to limit them to mitigation actions, while developing countries have been pressing to add adaptation to climate change effects, finances and technology transfer to the list. Kumar said India’s INDC would contain all three in addition to mitigation.

To buttress his statement that India’s INDC preparation process would be transparent, Kumar said, “We have already interacted twice with all ministries. We intend to have two open sessions – one for civil society and one for think tanks.”

Dipak Dasgupta, India’s representative to the GCF, said, “The scale of finance required by India (to tackle climate change) is so massive that it cannot be done by any one fund.” He referred to the report prepared by CEEW for the conference, which pegged this figure at US$751 billion over a decade for mitigation only – and this was in addition to what India could mobilise domestically.

Dasgupta said, “The solution lies in two parts. First, India should unpack its ambitions into more tractable packages – broken up over time and among states. Second, India should offer a way so that partners from around the world can pick their packages. GCF will be one of the partners and show what is possible.”

India’s emissions still set to double

A note of caution was added by P.R. Shukla from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. He said that from the current plans, analysts “cannot see more than 2.5% decoupling of carbon emissions from economic growth – which means, if the economy grows at 7-8% per year, India’s emissions will grow at around 5%. That will mean our total emissions will double by 2030.” He wondered if, in that scenario, average global temperature rise could be kept within two degrees Celsius, a stated goal of all countries.

 

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