COP26: PMO holds meet amid calls for India to up target

Updated on Oct 28, 2021 07:07 AM IST

Normally, the Union Cabinet approves India’s stance at climate negotiations, which is then presented and negotiated during the conference of parties. This time, however, the PMO held a meeting to discuss what India’s stance should be at COP26.

A protester holds up a sign during a climate strike in Milan.(REUTERS)
A protester holds up a sign during a climate strike in Milan.(REUTERS)
ByJayashree Nandi, New Delhi

Ahead of the Glasgow climate change conference (COP26), the Prime Minister’s Office on Wednesday held a lengthy inter-ministerial meeting on India’s position at the summit, an official aware of the development said.

The inter-ministerial meeting was represented by officials of most ministries, including power, new and renewable energy, earth sciences, finance and agriculture, among others.

Normally, the Union Cabinet approves India’s stance at climate negotiations, which is then presented and negotiated during the conference of parties. This time, however, the PMO held a meeting to discuss what India’s stance should be at COP26.

“Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself will be travelling to the summit, the Cabinet approval was not needed. It was decided that India will not be an outlier,” said a senior official who attended the meeting. The official did not divulge details of what transpired at the high-level meeting.

“We cannot give any more details at the moment but it was discussed at length as to what is possible for India respecting various principles of the Paris Agreement,” the official cited above said. “It was a very lengthy meeting. Unusual but all issues related to the negotiations were discussed. Just two days back, the environment minister, Bhupender Yadav, spoke with US special presidential envoy on climate John Kerry, where the minister said that India’s contribution will be communicated to the world at an appropriate time and place,” the official added.

He acknowledged that there was a lot of diplomatic pressure on India to make a strong submission at COP 26. “Many foreign delegates who visited us have cajoled us to commit to a net zero target. The options are still open; I would say that no particular decision was arrived at but the options have been discussed,” the official said.

Ahead of the Glasgow COP26, its president Alok Sharma said he expects India to incorporate a 450 GW renewable energy- by- 2030 target in the nationally determined contribution (NDC) it will submit.

In a press conference organised by Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of journalists and newsrooms, on Tuesday, Sharma said every country starts with a different energy mix but India’s informal goal of 450 GW of renewable energy by 2030 should be formalised in its NDC before COP26. “That’s what I told Indian officials and ministers when I was there,” he said.

Sharma didn’t directly respond to a question on whether developed countries would agree to advanced net zero targets to make room for developing countries like India to grow. “That is a discussion that has been raised with me when I was in Delhi in the past and CBDR [common but differentiated responsibilities] is part of the Paris Agreement. My consistent message to every country is that we all need to play our part,” he said, before referring to the 450 GW target again. “I am impressed with the target of 450 GW. What I wanted is for that to be reflected in the NDC. I will be the first person to welcome that loudly if that happens.”

At least 120 world leaders, including PM Modi, are likely to attend the summit at COP26 on November 1 and 2. Chinese President Xi Jinping hasn’t confirmed his presence but a negotiating team from China will be present, Sharma said.

“Glasgow will be more challenging than Paris. Our overarching ambition is to say at the end of Glasgow that we have kept 1.5 degree Celsius alive,” Sharma said. There is likely to be an agreement at the end of Glasgow which will be a result of two weeks’ of negotiations to say how the world plans to keep global warming under 1.5°C.

Most experts agree that the target of keeping global warming to a maximum of 1.5°C over pre-industrial levels has most likely been missed for good.

There is no confirmation on what India’s submission at COP26 is likely to be.

A 14-to-15-member delegation with officials from the ministries of power, finance, earth sciences, agriculture, new and renewable energy, environment, and water will represent India at COP26. It will be headed by environment minister Yadav. India’s lead climate negotiator is joint secretary in the environment ministry, Richa Sharma.

PM Modi is likely to be in Glasgow till November 2 when he and UK PM Boris Johnson are expected to make a joint statement on the Green Grids Initiative – One Sun One World One Grid’ (GGIOSOWOG) at COP 26. GGIOSOWOG will bring technical, financial and research cooperation to help facilitate cross-border renewable energy transfer projects according to the International Solar Alliance. Yadav is expected to lead India during the negotiations in the second week when several issues related to the Paris Rulebook — a set of guidelines for implementing the 2015 Paris Agreement are likely to be debated.

While not commenting on whether India will present an updated nationally determined contribution (NDC) ahead of COP26, officials said: “It is not mandatory for India to update its NDC. It can update it during the global stocktaking in 2023. Whatever India announces will be on a voluntary basis.” According to them, “Developed countries have been pushing India to announce a net zero emissions target. But for us our position is clear — action has to be taken based on historical responsibility which means they (developed countries) transition to net zero emissions first leaving carbon space for us to grow.”

India will push for climate justice and equity and contribution based on historical responsibility during negotiations with a similar stand as 24 other like-minded developing countries (LMDCs), including China.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, announced plans to reach zero-net emissions by 2060 at the Saudi Green Initiative on Saturday. The UAE, on October 7, became the first Gulf state to commit to net zero emissions by 2050. Russia and China have also announced plans to transition to net zero by 2060. According to the UN, 130 countries have already set or are considering a net zero emissions target by mid-century. According to the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, a non-profit organisation on energy and climate change issues in the UK, a net zero commitment by 2060 is under discussion in India.

“Net zero for a later date is on the platter as an option,” a senior environment ministry official said last week.

“India should announce an enhanced NDC not because of its responsibility or contribution to the greenhouse gas emissions; but because it is in our best interest. For us climate action is for co-benefit,” said Sunita Narain, director general, Centre for Science and Environment.

 

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