Everyone wants the United Nations Climate Change Summit in Paris this December to succeed. Almost everyone also agrees what success would look like: Meaningful reductions in carbon emission growth by the world between 2021 and 2030. Then they all disagree on how exactly to get there. India has announced its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) for the Paris summit, the last major country to do so. The INDC is a government’s climate change plan, including a pledge of how much it will make its economy greener. India has laid out a laudable set of 2030 targets: Reducing the carbon intensity of its economy by 33 to 35%, increasing the renewable component of its installed electricity production to 40% and using forestation to suck in 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seen around the world as a head of government genuinely concerned about climate change and dedicated to sustainable energy consumption. It means India’s commitments are seen as credible, and it can be claimed India has done, and is doing, its fair share when it comes to climate change, despite its relative poverty. The INDC release, however, highlights a more basic concern: Is India ready for the tough negotiations that will take place in Paris? China made a similar announcement last November and has been lobbying ever since. India will start now. The INDC has left chinks in the country’s climate negotiating armour. It makes out the case for foreign assistance and technology but does not provide a roadmap on how it would use such aid to reach its goals. The INDC curiously skates around India’s many achievements in adaptation, focusing on mitigation — something India has done well and that deserves more attention.
India is not in a weak position, but it must walk a careful path between a negotiated give-and-take and being forced to take a Samson approach, wherein it brings the conference crashing down. It must also maintain some semblance of leadership among other developing countries as the numbers they provide will be crucial to differentiating carbon responsibilities between the rich and poor nations. By taking such a long time to issue its INDC, India has frittered away time that could have been used to strike green tech agreements with other countries. None of these are fatal to either the summit or India’s overall posture. But it means New Delhi will get just a bit less in terms of technology and funds than it could have. India’s climate credentials are not in doubt. But its ability to navigate international climate negotiations is just a little less sound because of some obvious gaps in its declared stance.