The negotiating process on climate change revolves around the sessions of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP), which meets every year to review the implementation of the Convention. This year this process culminates in Copenhagen.
At Bali, Parties agreed to jointly step up international efforts to combat climate change and get to an agreed outcome in Copenhagen in 2009. Thus, an ambitious climate change deal will be clinched to follow on the first phase of the UN’s Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.
Why is a deal so important?
We know the world is warming, on average by 0.74ºC during the past century, with most of that since 1970.
The IPCC has reported regularly on climate change science for 20 years. Its last report was “unequivocal” that climate change is with us, and is set to get drastically worse unless we take urgent action. Nature, through both oceans and forests, currently absorbs about half the CO2 we put into the air. The rest of it stays in the atmosphere for centuries. However, the amount of carbon soaked up by natural ecosystems is declining steadily. So stabilizing emissions is not enough. Every tonne of CO2 we emit makes things worse. To stabilize temperatures at a sufficiently low level, we have to stop emitting as fast as we can.
The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December this year offers a historical opportunity to step up international action on climate change. A Copenhagen deal is essential to the global transition into green economic growth, and, most urgently, to help the world, especially the most vulnerable, adapt to impacts that are now inevitable.
Copenhagen needs to put in place the legal and policy framework that will enable the world to make the transition to climate-resilient, green global growth. To achieve this, governments in Copenhagen need to sign up to a new level of cooperation.
What if there’s no deal?
If things go as per Business as Usual (BAU) then we would have to face the severe impacts of changing weather patters and increase in the intensity of natural calamities. Global temperatures will continue to rise – by at least 2-4.5ºC by late this century.
These are some of the impacts from IPCC if such temperature rise occurs
1. By 2020 yields from rain fed agriculture might reduce significantly
2. Approximately 20-30% of plant and animal species are likely to be at increased risk of extinction if increases in global average temperature exceed 1.5-2.5°C
3. Widespread melting of glaciers and snow cover will reduce melt water from major mountain ranges (e.g. HinduKush, Himalaya), where more than one billion people currently live
4. More than 20 million people were displaced by sudden climate-related disasters in 2008 alone. An estimated 200 million people could be displaced as a result of climate impacts and sea level rise by 2050.
What would a good deal in Copenhagen look like?
A good deal would be one which would be able to limit the temperature rise to far below 2 degrees. The deal should enable that global greenhouse gas emissions peak by 2015, and start declining rapidly thereafter, reaching as close to zero as possible by mid century.
These should be the features of the deal
1. Legally binding emissions reduction obligations for industrialized countries, as a group, of at least 40% below 1990 levels by 2020.
2. Industrialized countries must also pay at least USD 140 billion annually, to support clean energy and other mitigation activities, forest protection and adaptation in developing countries.
3. Mitigation actions for developing countries in the spirit of a gradual widening, deepening and strengthening of the contributions from members of the UNFCCC, to achieve a 15-30% deviation from business as usual growth by 2020.
4. Establishment of a funding mechanism for ending gross deforestation and associated emissions in all developing countries by 2020
What are the concerns for India?
India is clearly willing to make its contribution in reducing GHG emissions but believes that mitigation actions could distract resources away from India’s overriding priorities, which are poverty eradication and economic growth.
What are the advantages for India from Copenhagen?
1. India could get the opportunity for “leapfrogging” from conventional technologies and adopting low-emissions methods and processes, India can avoid many of the unpleasant downsides of conventional technologies – the local pollution, ill-health for people and damage to nature. The green low-carbon technologies are also more efficient, they will save money in the long run.
2. India could get a chance to be the global leader in the world by setting examples for other countries on how to mitigate as well as adapt to climate change. India could showcase the opportunity that a low carbon future brings with it. India has already indicated on increasing its share of solar energy from zero to nearly 20 GW by 2020. Such actions would not only take India into the big league but also help India to sustain its economic growth.
3. The transition to a low carbon economy can be a launching pad for new jobs and industry in India, which would help India in reducing the gap between rich and poor along with helping India in reducing poverty.
What is expected of India at Copenhagen?
Every country needs to do its fair share in helping to reduce global emissions. Under the UNFCCC, it is India responsibility to be part of the solution. India at Copenhagen needs to play a constructive role in the negotiations. India needs to ensure that we achieve a fair, ambitious and legally binding (FAB) deal at Copenhagen.
In doing so India needs to limit its emission in the longer run. The actions India would take for limitations of emissions would be domestically binding. Some of these reductions would be done by India from its own money while the rest would be supported by developed countries. These actions should be in tune with the demands of science for developing countries which is 15-30 % deviations from BAU by 2020.
India does not need to take Quantified Emission Limitation Reduction Obligation which the developed countries need to take but India does need to take on deviation from business as usual in order to be on a low carbon development trajectory.
Has India’s policy on climate change shifted since Bali? If so how?
India has come a long way in the climate negotiations. From being extremely defensive, India has chosen to take a step forward and has engaged creatively in the negotiations.
If India emits only 4% of GHG why should we act at all?
Global warming is a global problem which would have a global solution. India might have a share of 4% in overall GHG emissions yet India does need to ensure that it is on a low carbon development pathway. India does have developmental priorities and needs to go a long way in order to provide everyone in India with a better standard of living. In doing so India emission are bound to grow in the shorter run, yet India should take steps which will ensure that in the longer run India does not go on a carbon intensive development trajectory and adopts a sustainable and equitable pathway.
The PM has said that our per capita emissions will always be below the world average. Isn’t that enough?
The PM has stated that our per capita emission would be always below world average but using the language of per capita emissions is not lucid. In India along with other countries the poor do not have a significant carbon foot print which means that when we deduct emissions based on per capita we undermine the existing economic diversity in the country. In India there is a huge disparity among the carbon foot print of the poor and the rich, this disparity is lost in a per capita aggregation. If we use the per capita argument we would not have inclusive development.
Should India be striking bilateral deals with China and the US?
The UNFCCC was established as a forum because climate change cannot be dealt with bilaterally. India can strike as many bilateral deals as possible to ensure deeper coordination and cooperation yet bilateral deals should not undermine the multilateral process of UNFCCC.
Is NO DEAL better than a BAD DEAL?
At Copenhagen we need to have a fair, ambitious and legally binding deal. We need to have a deal which is internationally binding and not politically binding. There is a need of the hour to have political will in order to ensure that we do not have a bad deal at Copenhagen. Science has given the verdict and it cannot change, change needs to come from politics. We do not want a photo opportunity at Copenhagen where world leaders shake hands. We need to see a vision which ensures that the world is on the pathway to keep global temperature well below a 2 degrees rise.