Disappointing Lima UN talks delays climate change decisions

  • Leena Srivastava, New Delhi
  • Updated: Dec 17, 2014 22:40 IST

Developing countries have every right to demand adequate financial resources from developed nations to help them cope with the additional challenges of dealing with climate change — the observed impacts of which are increasingly apparent and further predicted to increase with the already accumulated greenhouse gases (GHG) in the earth’s atmosphere.

However, it is also imperative to recognise that no matter how successful the negotiations for adaptation funds are, these will be thoroughly and increasingly inadequate to deal with the growing threat of climate change if we do not aggressively pursue early mitigation and the net-zero emission target needed in the second half of this century.

Developed countries must be called upon to assume fair historical responsibility for their past GHG emissions, which have given them their ‘developed’ status and which are imposing an enormous and disproportionate burden of climate change on the developing world. However, today the emerging world is accounting for an increasingly large GHG footprint.

But the current shares of GHG emissions cannot be used to wipe out historical responsibilities. At best, the relative responsibilities of each country can be tweaked dynamically according to their cumulative GHG contributions since the Industrial Revolution. This is to ensure that the world as a whole remains within the global carbon budget.

The disappointing negotiations and the inadequate agreement signed at the annual UN climate change conference COP 20 in Lima, Peru, have once again delayed the urgent action on mitigating climate change and enhanced the uncertainty of outcomes.

The euphoria generated by the foot-in-the-door US-China joint announcement just a few weeks ago has completely dissipated. As delegates walk away once again patting themselves on their back for not being complete losers, it needs to be highlighted that the delays in arriving at mitigation commitments are endangering the lives of more and more people with each passing day. Little accountability has been fixed as the ostrich in us refuses to link the increasing extreme events to climate change.

The time period between now and Paris will again see frantic activity at every major climate-related events. The Delhi Sustainable Development Summit, scheduled for early February, which usually focuses on the annual UN climate change conference and what kind of an agreement we need the next year, provides an opportunity to negotiators, Indian and foreign, to informally get feedback on their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).

Undoubtedly India’s ambition or the lack of it reflected in its INDCs can play a major role in removing an excuse for more ambitious commitments from several developed countries. India has announced several measures at a domestic level that, with minor adjustments, could far surpass expectations at an international level if only we had the will to deliver.

For now, the brinkmanship that is, and has been, on display in almost all 20 major rounds of negotiations on the climate issue is that some of the developed country negotiators seem to think that they have the resilience to face the consequences of climate change. These very same countries profess to be world leaders with their leadership limited to economic and military might.

But climate change has the potential to wipe out the very base of our economic superstructure — the large, highly unsaturated markets of the developing world. And the armies of the superpowers may be relegated to spending more and more financial and human resources to secure natural resources for meeting their selfish needs.

Leena Srivastava is vice-chancellor,TERI University, and executive director, The Energy and Resources Institute

The views expressed by the author are personal

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