Adaptation, Not Mitigation, Should Inform India’s Climate Policy

Background:

  • Countries Across the world are gearing up for the 26th Conference of Parties (COP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). At the forthcoming COP countries will be expected to increase the nationally determined commitments they made as part of that agreement.
  • Those original commitments would put the planet on track towards a 3 degrees centigrade temperature rise by the end of the current millennium. 3-degree centigrade is far beyond the 1.5-degree limit that science considers to be a relatively safe threshold.

Carbon Neutrality:

  • The European Union (EU), the UK, Japan and South Korea have announced more ambitious targets.
  • The EU and the UK have pledged to reduce their carbon emissions by 55 per cent in 2030 with 2000 as the base year. They have also pledged to achieve “carbon neutrality” or zero carbon emissions by
  • China has announced that it will achieve carbon neutrality by 2060 and this has been welcomed by other major economies.
  • It is anticipated that the Biden administration may engage with China to come up with a template for COP-26. That template did not take into account India’s interests despite China being part of the BASIC group of Brazil, South Africa, China and India. BASIC, as major emerging economies, had been taking coordinated positions at multilateral climate negotiations.
  • Going forward, India must delink itself from China, let BASIC become a consultative forum only and reconstruct a larger coalition of developing countries whose climate change goals are more aligned with its own. After Paris, BASIC has lost whatever rationale it originally possessed.

What India should do?

  • There will be some important international conferences before COP-26, where major efforts are expected to set down an agenda for that meeting.
  • In June there will be a G-7 summit of western countries and Japan to which India has been invited.
  • The UK has let it be known that climate change would be at the top of the summit agenda.
  • Both for India and other developing countries, it is important that mitigation does not overshadow other key elements of the Paris Climate agreement.
  • There has been step-motherly treatment of adaptation, which is a bigger challenge for most developing countries than mitigation is.
  • Adaptation should have equal billing with mitigation whenever and wherever climate change action is being deliberated upon. India may find itself under pressure to commit to decisions that limit rather than enhance its development prospects.
  • One should not yield to pressures to declare a peaking year for India’s carbon emissions or to follow China into declaring a target year for carbon neutrality. There is a relentless effort by the US and Western European countries to include climate change on the UN Security Council (UNSC) agenda.
  • At a recent UNSC meeting, this was strongly opposed by Russia and by India.
  • We will need to work out a persuasive case for opposing it since a large number of countries seem to believe that climate change is indeed a security issue and needs to be treated as such.
  • The potentially menacing intent behind it should be exposed.

Question of Finance?

  • The developed countries had committed themselves to providing $100 billion a year in climate finance to developing countries up to 2020. There was a pledge to increase the size of this funding significantly in the period 2021-2025. Even by the very accommodative accounting methods used by the OECD, the actual flows have fallen far short, being only $79 billion in 2018.
  • Our own ministry of finance has estimated that there has been only a billion dollars in new and additional finance transferred to developing countries annually against the $100 billion pledge.
  • It is therefore important for India to high light the finance component.
  • This will also enable the mobilisation of other developing countries, in particular small and medium countries and small island developing states. These countries look up to India to provide intellectual leadership in a domain that is often quite technical and complex.

Conclusion

  • It is evident that India needs to fashion a fresh strategy on climate change negotiations to safeguard its interests, contribute to a global climate regime that enhances and does not diminish India’s development prospects and helps the country both to adapt to climate change that is already taking place and to accelerate its transition to a low carbon growth trajectory.