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Bonn climate talks: Why should India care?

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

india Updated: Nov 05, 2017 21:56 IST
Malavika Vyawahare
Malavika Vyawahare
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Climate talks,COP-23,Global warming
Environmentalist march close to the Hambach lignite open pit mine near Elsdorf, Germany on Sunday as they protest against fossil-based energies like coal, having negative impact on the climate change. The nearby western city of Bonn will host the UN Climate Change Conference (COP-23) from November 6 to 19 .(AFP)

One hundred and ninety seven countries are meeting in Bonn for the climate talks beginning Monday to discuss ambitious plans to halt global warming.

What are the Bonn talks?

The Bonn climate talks - officially the COP-23 - is the 23rd annual meeting of countries who are part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

It is the second meeting of signatories to the Paris climate agreement signed in 2015. The agreement aims to limit the rise in average global temperatures by 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels.

Human-induced climate change is believed to have its roots in the industrial revolution and is largely caused by emission of greenhouse gases (GHG) like carbon dioxide. Limiting emissions of greenhouse gases is the most important way of checking rising temperatures.

Why is COP 23 important?

It is the first time signatory nations of the Paris climate agreement are meeting after the US announced its decision to withdraw. It is the first time a COP is being presided over by a small island nation, Fiji, the like of which are considered to be at highest risk from climate change impacts like sea level rise and coastal erosion. They have the most to lose hence small island nations have been at the forefront of demanding that the target be set at 1.5 degrees Celsius. But India and China are opposed to Fiji’s proposal to enhance Paris climate deal pledges.

The Bonn talks will see negotiations around the rules for implementing the Paris agreement. A rule book is important because the agreement is not a legally binding treaty and only requires countries to set voluntary targets for reduction of GHG emissions. The agreement relies on a robust reporting mechanism to track countries progress and to pressure them into action.

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

Why is US withdrawal such a big deal?

Historical responsibility is one of the most divisive issues in climate negotiations. Industrialised nations have generated the largest quantity of GHG emissions since 1850, and US accounts for the highest amount of cumulative emissions of any country.

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. However, the US continues to be the second largest annual emitter of GHG. On a per capita basis, India (1.9 million tonnes) was way behind the US (15.6 MT) and even China (7.4 MT) in 2016.

A withdrawal signals that the US does not acknowledge its role in creating the problem nor will it make efforts to curb its GHG emissions. It also means the superpower is not willing to help countries that will suffer from climate change impacts.

Read more: India and China oppose Fiji proposal to enhance Paris climate deal pledges

Why should India care?

Developing countries like India will suffer the most from the impacts of climate change. However the main concern for India is that limiting greenhouse gas emissions will interfere with its growth. India still relies on heavily polluting sources like coal to generate 59% of its power. But over 300 million people in India are still without electricity.

The outcome of climate negotiations potentially has the power to steer the trajectory of India’s development. Moving to low carbon sources of energy requires investment and government support. Some argue that the move to renewable energy sources is an economic opportunity that India can take advantage of.

India has consistently argued that developed countries have the responsibility to aid developing countries in this transition through financial contributions and technology transfer.

The Bonn talks are important since it is unclear what positions the US delegation will take. The US cannot officially withdraw from the agreement before 2020 so it still has a seat at the table. It will also be of interest for India to see how other countries will respond to the American withdrawal and whether others like the EU or China will be willing to step up and lead the climate dialogue.

First Published: Nov 05, 2017 21:56 IST