India’s doing well on Paris commitments, developed countries must set themselves more ambitious targets
In less than a week, heads of state from across the world will congregate in Glasgow for the COP-26 (the United Nations Conference of the Parties). Countries will assess their progress in transitioning to a lower emission pathway vis a vis the targets they set out for themselves in line with the Paris Agreement of 2015. They would also likely update their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) since the Paris Agreement.
India is likely to achieve at least two of its three NDCs before 2030, and may announce updated goals. Its decarbonisation initiatives are more or less on track to meet its Paris Agreement targets.
However, while the Biden administration has been working overtime to nudge nations to schedule a date by which they would hit ‘net zero’, New Delhi may steer clear of specific deadlines. Media reports suggest New Delhi, together with two-dozen peer-nations, will ask the developed world to provide climate financing to the tune of $100 billion annually, to be used to undo the damage. They reason the environment crisis is the result of excesses of the developed world which must now assume a disproportionately large role in reversing the damage.
Indeed, developed nations must not be asking developing nations to tread a steeper path to poverty-alleviating growth, fraught with many uncertainties. India-plus will aim to come up with a plan that channels funds to poorer nations. The advanced economies will be expected to not just come up to speed on their commitments—made in the previous COP meetings—but go well beyond these. Such demands are likely to remain unfulfilled because not all governments may be able to garner the political support to allocate the necessary resources.
A big absolute emitter of carbons—per capita is a very different story—India has not committed itself to the 2050 deadline as some other countries have. It could face some pressure to update the NDCs, finalised in Paris, but New Delhi has time till 2023. Experts believe India may not want to be seen as giving in too easily. There is no word on whether it will revise its NDCs to add retirement of coal and fossil fuels, or declare a net zero target. However, it must decide whether it wants to follow a ‘net zero’ or a ‘low carbon’ approach. The former would call for fairly drastic change in the sources of power used.
The advantage of opting for a ‘net zero’ strategy is that it could attract international funding and research support. Moreover, such a strategy could win it greater access to overseas markets for exports. However, there are those who question whether committing to a “net zero” date is indeed the right approach.
Sceptics point out that deliberations at the COP summits tend to be somewhat superficial; progress on a detailed roadmap to address the objective of lowering emissions, they say, has eluded the group. It would be hard to elicit firm commitments from all nations; China, for instance, has already pushed the deadline by a decade, to 2060. Nonetheless, the discussions are useful even if they merely nudge countries to start minimising the use of harmful fuels.
COP26 is being held against the backdrop of a UN report that noted that the Paris deal’s target to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, above pre-industrial levels, may not be achieved even if the world reaches net-zero emissions by 2050. In the most likely scenario, the warming could be more than 3 degrees.