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Lok Sabha TV Insights – Climate Change: Realism Needed

LSTV Insights – Climate Change: Realism Needed

29/01/2015

US secretary of state John Kerry in his earlier visit indicated that ‘Climate Change’ will be one of the main agenda for Obama’s visit. In addition, some time back there was deal between US and China, in which latter declared that its carbon emissions will peak by 2030. These developments enabled many analysts to expect similar deal (or atleast pressure for one) with India. India, they say, is third largest greenhouse gasses emitter after US and China. But this analogy is faulty as European Union (put together) emits far more carbon than India.

Kyoto protocol expired in 2012 and its successor agreement is to be undertaken at Paris conference (under UNFCCC) later this year. Main agenda is to limit temperature rise to 20 Celsius, by imposing binding targets on participants. But it seems that countries are not yet ready to agree to binding commitments. Most probably this agreement will boil down to voluntary commitments by main countries. This way much less would be committed than what is required for this target. Further, developed countries are hell bent to dilute essential principle of ‘Common but Differentiated responsibilities’.

20th Conference of Parties was held in Lima, Brazil. Agenda was to build a background and consensus for Paris Conference (21st COP). But all efforts proved to be futile. Actually, at Warsaw (19th COP), in 2013, vulnerable developing countries (which includes ‘small island nations’) were given assurances that mechanism for ‘Loss and Damage’ will be institutionalized in view of rising instances of natural disasters. As per these assurances negotiations will be started only in 2016. Vulnerable countries asserted that they want this to be concluded along with other commitments in Paris conference and hence a deadlock emerged, which is likely to continue in COP 21.

Another issue is of Hydroflurocarbon (HFC) gasses which are used in refrigeration. Montreal protocol was agreed to in 1987 which banned use of Chlorofluorocarbons (CFC). CFC was found to be damaging ozone layer. This ban is indiscriminately on every country. In aftermath of this ban industry moved to HFC, which doesn’t harm ozone, but yet is a potent greenhouse gas. Now US Company DU Pont has an alternative of HFC for refrigeration industry. This brings big business opportunity.

Consequently, US is desperate to bring HFC under ambit of Montreal protocol despite of the fact that it has no implications for Ozone layer. India is pushing for its inclusion under framework to be agreed at Paris conference, which will be more stringent selectively for developed countries (unlike Montreal protocol). Industries of developing countries have tried to catch up with refrigeration industries (based on HFCs) of developed world. Now that some of them are almost at level playing field, it will be a big setback for these industries if they are not allowed to use HFC further. If US want to cover HFC under Montreal protocol, then there must be adequate provisions for technology and funds transfer to developing countries.

These are differences which are hard to be ironed out. INDO- US Joint statement dropped any reference to UNFCCC or Paris conference. However, both countries concluded some other agreements which have implications on climate change. India revised its Solar Power target to 100 GW by 2022, which earlier was 20 GW by 2020. US committed $4 billion investments, most of which will be in renewable energy sector. Joint statement has put emphasis on research in field of energy efficiency and renewable energy. In spite of this, India’s economy will remain carbon driven in near future, as India’s industrial base and economic depth is poised to grow and demand more energy. It will be even hard to ensure that only incremental energy is from clean sources. However, most of the progress in Indian economy and industry is yet to come, so it must be ensured that India leapfrogs to latest, cleanest and most efficient energy technologies.