Editorial: Preventing a CoP-out

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Published: December 8, 2015 12:34:15 AM

The rich need to take responsibility for their actions

As the Paris Conference of Parties (CoP21) meet enters its most testing round, the voluntary emission targets given by various countries will likely result in a 2.7oC hike in global temperatures as compared to the universally accepted 2oC target—while the Centre for Science and Environment estimates temperatures will rise well above 3oC, it is important to know that even the less than 1oC rise in global temperatures so far has resulted in dramatically-compressed extreme weather events such as the floods in Chennai. So, if CoP21 is to achieve anything, the targets for developed countries have to be increased hugely.

Rich nations like the US, however, continue to try to pass the buck to developing countries on grounds that it is they—India and China, primarily—who are contributing to most of the growth in carbon emissions, and it is they that will bear the brunt of the climate change. Given that these countries are home to the world’s poorest and need to use more energy while they grow their incomes, it is obvious greater emissions will come from the developing world. Yet, between 1850 and 2011, the US accounted for 21.2%, the European Union 18.4%, and Russia, Japan and Canada together 12.9% of total cumulative carbon dioxide emissions—India’s share was a mere 2.8%; in 2012, while India’s share of current emissions rose to 5.7%, that of the OECD was 40.6%. To keep temperature hikes to below 2oC, the world can emit another 1,000 billion tonnes of CO2 till 2100—estimates are it will exhaust this by 2030 based on current trends.

To avoid this, countries like India need to dramatically lower their carbon path, but this requires trillions of dollars of investment—India alone estimates it needs $2.5 trillion (at FY15 prices) between now and 2030. The rich, however, have committed to a mere $100 billion each year and, as compared to the OECD estimate of having reached $57 billion already, India estimates the actual flows at just around $2 billion. The Paris talks, it appears, are headed for yet another cop-out.

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