Environment minister sets the tone for India’s stand at Bonn climate talks | environment | Hindustan Times
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Environment minister sets the tone for India’s stand at Bonn climate talks

The Bonn climate talks are scheduled to start on November 6. It is the first time the member countries who signed the Paris agreement are meeting after US announced it would withdraw from the agreement.

environment Updated: Nov 05, 2017 15:07 IST
India’s Environment minister, Harsh Vardhan, described the principles that guide India’s stand at climate negotiations at a conference on Saturday.
India’s Environment minister, Harsh Vardhan, described the principles that guide India’s stand at climate negotiations at a conference on Saturday.((PTI File Photo))

“People in the developing world who are least responsible for causing the problem of climate change are most likely to suffer,” Harsh Vardhan, India’s environment minister, said on the eve of the Bonn climate talks starting November 6, setting the tone for the Indian delegation.

He was speaking at the second day of the World Conference on Environment 2017 in Delhi. The two-day conference (Nov 3-4) was organised by the National Green Tribunal, India’s top environment court, in collaboration with United Nations Environment Programme, the Asian Development Bank, the Ministry of Environment and Forests and the Ministry of Water Resources.

The Conference of Parties (COP)-23 being held in Germany, is the second such gathering of world leaders after the signing of the Paris climate agreement at COP 21 in 2015, and the first since the US announced plans to withdraw.

The Bonn conference is the platform where the rulebook of the Paris agreement will be negotiated. The minister’s comments suggest that the issue of climate justice, recognising the historical contribution of developed nations to climate change, will be front and centre at Bonn.

A rule book is important because the Paris agreement is not a legally binding treaty and only requires countries to set voluntary targets for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. The agreement relies on a robust reporting mechanism to track countries progress and to pressure them into action.

The divide between developed countries and developing countries has been the most polarising at the negotiations that are held under the aegis of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change signed in 1992.

Industrialised nations historically account for over 70 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions, which are responsible for human-induced climate change. US is the largest contributor of carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas.

Since the 1960s countries like China and India saw an uptick in emissions and have now emerged as the first and third largest contributors looking at yearly contributions. On a per capita basis however, India (1.9 Million Tonnes) was way behind the US (15.6 MT) and even China (7.4 MT) in 2016.

India has consistently argued that meeting the basic needs of its people is priority even if it means rising GHG emissions, and its development should not be hindered because its per capita emissions are much lower than developed countries.

“An entitlement to equal per capita emissions recognises the fundamental equality of all people and their rights to economic growth even within a carbon constrained world,” Harsh Vardhan said.

Globally, Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the treaty has been met with hostility because US continues to be the second largest annual emitter of GHG. India in particular was incensed that the US president chose to underscore the issue of funding for developing countries to mitigate and cope with climate change.

While highlighting India’s efforts to move towards a low carbon economy, like the promotion of renewable energy, enhancing energy efficiency, Harsh Vardhan noted that compensation of the developing countries by industrialised nations would be key.

“India makes its participation contingent on receiving billions of dollars in foreign aid,” Trump said in June. The US will continue to participate at the COP meetings because it cannot formally withdraw from the Paris agreement before 2020.

The Bonn negotiations will also clarify how mechanisms for transfer of resources between developed and developing countries will work.

It is widely recognised that climate change will disproportionately impact countries like India, where the resources available to mitigate climate change and combat related effects are limited. Low lying island nations like Fiji, which is co-hosting the Bonn talks, are at highest risk because their very existence is threatened by sea-level rise.

A UN emissions gap report released this week showed that the world is not on track to meet the central goal of the Paris agreement of keeping global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius, from pre-industrial levels.