Climate injustice

The developed nations must listen to India and act in the interest of the planet, not just theirs.

climate change, global warming, united nations, climate crisis, global crisis, Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism, european union
It is not just knowledge transfer, the developed world's reluctance to fund meaningful climate action is well known. (Image/IE)

Environment minister Bhupendra Yadav’s recent statement on the Global North’s (developed nations) “tendency of profiteering from disaster (climate change)” is not an exaggeration. The minister has done well to remind rich nations that the climate crisis is “starkly different from other global crises” and therefore traditional responses need to be shunned. Whether it is the continued refusal to shoulder responsibility for historical emissions, or protectionist measures in the name of climate action, or reluctance to provided adequate funds for adaptation and mitigation measures in the developing world, the West continues to dodge the question of what makes for meaningful climate action on its part.

Instances of the rich nations’ “traditional response” abound. A recent example is Europe’s Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM), which is just protectionism with a greenish tinge. The European Union intends to impose a carbon tariff on energy-intensive imports. While the EU accounted for just 15% of India’s exports in 2019-2021, half of the exports are products that will be covered under the CBAM, affecting India-based producers’ competitiveness. India joined other developing nations to protest this at the climate summit in Egypt last year, and has now taken the matter to the World Trade Organization. It is amply clear that the measure is intended to protect investments within the EU’s geography as it implements measures to realise its green targets, even if this comes at the cost of developing economies.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), when it was established in 1992, urged developed-countries to “take all practicable steps to promote, facilitate and finance the transfer of, or access to, climate technologies to other Parties, particularly to developing countries.” Indeed, the UNFCCC states that developing nations’ implementation of climate commitments “will depend on the effective implementation” of developed countries’ commitments “related to financial resources and transfer of technology”. The fact that, 23 years later (in 2015), the Paris Agreement was still talking of a “vision of fully realising technology transfer” is quite telling of how the developed world has dragged its feet. An intent to profit from intellectual property rights continues to impede any significant transfer. Researchers at the Institute of Advanced Sustainability Studies, Potsdam/University of Erfurt, as per a report in Science Daily, say that the Global North’s patents on low-carbon technologies give it significant competitive advantage. Thus, for much of the developing world, tech transfers remain “critically insufficient”. As a consequence, many such nations could get “locked into high-emission energy systems.”

It is not just knowledge transfer, the developed world’s reluctance to fund meaningful climate action is well known. Against an initial commitment of $100 billion annually in climate finance for developing nations by 2020, a total of just $83.3 billion was claimed to have been mobilised. The Green Climate Fund, has received commitments of just $10.3 billion so far. Even the $100 billion per year target is grossly inadequate. While India and other developing nations point at how rich nations exhausted a large chunk of the carbon budget for keeping the planet to a 1.5oC-warming pathway, developed nations continue to shrug off historical responsibility. Indeed, many experts have pointed out that their announcements of net zero target are hardly ambitious—deadlines that allowed for the developing world to catch up with them would have been much more meaningful. The developed nations must listen to Yadav and act in the interest of the planet, not just theirs.

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First published on: 07-03-2023 at 05:15 IST
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