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Lok Sabha TV Insights: Climate Change Debate

                                                   LSTV Insights – Climate Change Debate

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30/07/2015

Year 2015 is being tagged as a landmark year for global climate change discourse due to Paris meet (COP 21) of UNFCC which will be held in 2015. It’s another thing that nothing much is expected from the meet, but its outcomes will certainly give conclusive indicators about the future of the earth. Climate change experts are already claiming that we are tremendously late, yet there is some unrealistic optimism that leaders will rise above their national interest and think global.

Almost every big emitter (except India) has submitted its ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contributions’ (INDCs) to UNFCCC. US’s INDC promises reductions of 26-28% emissions of Greenhouse gasses – by 2025 – from 2005 levels. China has adopted other was – it has promised that its emissions will peak by 2030 and start declining thereafter. Further, it claims reduction of ‘emissions per unit of GDP’ by 60-65% on 2005 levels by 2030. In case of Japan, reduction will be 26.5% by 2030 from 2013 levels or by 25% from 2005 levels. Other INDCs can be seen here. These are voluntary contributions and no binding commitments.

A decision ‘at COP 19 held in 2013 at Warsaw’, invited INDCs from all countries well in advance of Paris meet (or COP 21) which shall include quantifiable reduction targets and some means to achieve those targets. Developed countries want to limit INDCs to mitigation only, while developing ones want adaptation and finance to be included. INDCs of various countries put together are hoped to be enough for achieving goal of limiting global temperature rise to 2° by 2030 as compared from pre- industrialization era, which is also the official target of UNFCCC.

At the first place target in itself is quite modest, but any more ambitious target will be utterly disregarded by most countries. By now .8° rise is already observed and there is noticeable increase in climate related natural disasters. Heat wave in India and Pakistan claimed lives of about 3000 people. Erratic rainfalls are taking toll on farm productivity. There is marked increase in random cyclonic activity all over the world. All types of extreme weather events are being observed. Intense summers, winters, downpours suggests that target limit of 2° is quite modest.

Even if we accept that something is better than nothing and agree with 2° target, INDCs promised by various countries indicate that countries are non-committal toward target and trying to evade their responsibility. Above mentioned INDCs are way lower than what is required. U.S. has already expressed its inability to contribute more owing to constraints posed by domestic politics. Now world bizarrely expects India to contribute liberally to targets. India has not so far declared its INDC, perhaps to observe commitments of nations who are more responsible and then decide its course.

India owing to its sheer size and dense population is 3rd largest greenhouse gas emitter. However, its per capita emission is just 30% of that of China and 13% of USA. Further, above mentioned data is about ‘current aggregate emissions’, if we take ‘cumulative historical emissions’ or ‘legacy emissions’, India’s contribution to greenhouse gasses is just 2.5%. For this 2.5% of emissions India can’t be expected to contribute a lion’s share in total reduction.

India has taken various measures – Target of 100 GW solar power and 38 GW wind power by 2022, clean energy cess of Rs. 100 on Coal, High excise duty on petrol and diesel, there are attempts to shift to cleaner coal technologies for which Ultra Mega Power Projects are in pipeline, India has National Action Plan for Climate Change (NAPCC) which contains 8 missions. Despite all this, India’s reliance on coal will not abate in near future as 300 million Indians are still waiting for electrification.

India is planning to submit two INDCs. One based on what its domestic resources allow and other based on international support regarding finances and technology. It is amply clear that India has to maintain its developmental space. It has to provide atleast minimum standards of living to Indians at all costs. India is already a low carbon intensive economy. But if manufacturing sector picks up, carbon emissions will follow. Yet India in 2010, promised that its ‘emission per capita of GDP’ will reduce by 20-25% by 2020, from 2005 levels. While India is on path of delivering on earlier promise, it is expected to make similar but enhanced promise for INDCs. It can be 45-55% reduction in emissions per capita GDP from 2005 levels. Experts say this would be a reasonable target. But this will not in any way contribute in absolute reduction of Indian emissions; in fact they will probably double. India can only decouple 2-3% of its growth from emissions. If its GDP grows at 8%, then emissions will grow at least 6-5%.