India must work on building trust when it comes to its climate change stand
Before the Lima round of talks on climate change last year, it was widely anticipated that India would announce a set of emission goals. The US and China had reached a bilateral emission reduction agreement a few months earlier and the pact was being hailed as a template for China’s BRICS peers, including India, to commit to similar efforts. But India resisted international expectations and stuck to its historical stand—while it would consider setting emission goals on its own impetus only, the onus was on the developed nations to act on climate change and aid poor nations financially and with technology to cut emission. The Union environment ministry recently reiterated this stand, when it emerged that the chief economic advisor to the government, Arvind Subramanian, had advised that India should sever historical associations with poor nations in global climate change negotiations and commit to cuts instead of focusing on climate change adaptation measures.
So, as India gears up to submit its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC)—with a emission cut proposal, perhaps—in Bonn on October 1, it is likely to have the entire world’s attention on it. However, scepticism regarding India’s commitment could still be well-merited. For a start, the environment ministry, while announcing its plan to submit INDCs, said that “climate justice” must prevail—the phrase is interpreted as the developed world shouldering greater burden of action on climate change. Two, with the Make-in-India focus and heavy dependence on coal for power generation, the country may not find itself in a position to announce significant cuts—though the focus on renewable energy could allow it to offset some of its emissions. At the same time, any emission reduction goal announced by India should give it leverage in climate change negotiations given the developed world has long accused India and China as the world’s worst polluters.