Didn’t introduce ‘phase down’ in COP26 statement, clarifies India
Sources in the Indian delegation previously have said India opposed hard targets on phasing out coal as well as other fossil fuels like gas and oil, but was particularly opposed to the singling out of coal alone, which is still among the key sources of energy for developing nations.
India did not introduce the phrase “phase down” in the Glasgow Climate Pact text, senior officials aware of the negotiations at the COP26 said on Wednesday, rejecting criticism that Delhi was instrumental in watering down a tough stance on phasing out coal to fight the climate crisis.
The controversy relates to the change of the phrase “phase out” to “phase down” in the context of using coal. Sources in the Indian delegation previously have said India opposed hard targets on phasing out coal as well as other fossil fuels like gas and oil, but was particularly opposed to the singling out of coal alone, which is still among the key sources of energy for developing nations.
Officials aware of the mater on Wednesday said environment minister Bhupender Yadav, representing India, read out the reworded text because the COP26 Presidency requested the Indian side to do so, and it was required in the interest of achieving a consensus at COP26.
COP26 president Alok Sharma, in an interview to Guardian recently, said India and China will “have to explain themselves to poor nations” for their stance on coal. He also said he was deeply frustrated with Delhi’s and Beijing’s attitude.
Earlier during the formal plenary for Glasgow Climate Pact, Sharma said he was deeply sorry for the way negotiations ended, while holding back tears.
“Phase out” was recommended by small island countries, Indian officials said on Tuesday. “The initial text had “phase out” for both coal and fossil fuel subsidies which we did not agree with. It’s our basic position in any case. But we did not introduce the phrase ‘phase down.’ We had problem with the language on coal and phasing out of fossil fuel subsidies. We did not agree to that language which they kept pushing till the end,” said one of the senior officials.
India’s problem, they reiterated, was not with phase out or phase down but introducing equity and safeguards on fossil fuel subsidies for the poor. On the last day (November 13) phase out got modified to phase down because there was that language on the table that came out of the US-China joint statement.
“It was evolved following discussions between Presidency which is the UK side, US, China, India and EU. The chair (Alok Sharma) has to steer these discussions. It’s the chair’s duty to steer it towards consensus. We agreed to the amendments. The reason why we read out the text is because we were asked to by the Presidency. When you look at the proceedings you will feel that this is India’s language, but we only read out the statement. We were trying to help achieve a consensus. We also wanted to introduce certain safeguards and had some concerns. We did not have a strong objection to the phrase ‘phase down’ either because we were trying to find a language to ensure an outcome for COP itself,” the first official said.
India was pushing for consensus because, the official explained, “if we did not have the cover decision, then none of the other documents (including rulebook on carbon markets) would move ahead. Therefore, it was in our interest to achieve a consensus. Phasing out of coal and phasing out fossil fuel subsidies we do not have a problem as such, but it should be qualified,” he added.
Another official pointed out that instead of the chair (Alok Sharma) presenting it, which is the norm to read out the text, the chair chose to request India to read out the compromise text. Yadav was clear during his intervention that it was not India’s position alone but in consultation with the presidency and other stakeholders.
“We are dependent on coal, we probably have to enhance it and we are giving subsidies to poor people to help them have a basic subsistence level. To compare that with general utilisation, 20 times of the kind of energy (used) in some developed countries, is unfair,”the second official said.
Officials also said India did not subscribe to picking and choosing one fossil fuel, that is coal, over the others. “They (developed countries) used coal as much as they could and now they have transitioned to gas and oil. EU for example is highly dependent on gas. But now they are singling out coal which the developing nations are dependent on,” said one of the officials.
“The amendments to the text, such as targeted support to the poorest and the most vulnerable, in line with national circumstances, and recognising the need for support towards a just transition were India’s contribution. We wanted a constructive and positive approach which must have the principle of equity. Our delegation would have lived with ‘phase out.’ Our Ujjwala scheme is also fossil fuel subsidy meant for poor so we wanted to build in those safeguards,” said the second official.
He also mentioned that many countries had a problem with any language on coal and fossil fuels: South Africa, Australia, Indonesia, Venezuela and China. The words “unabated” coal and “inefficient” fossil fuel subsidies were introduced because other countries had problems with the first text. “There is no new unabated coal in India, they are coming with new technology checks. There are countries where fossil fuel subsidies are not targeted to the poor but in India the case is different,” he added.
Overall officials said they were disappointed with the outcome at COP26 with respect to climate finance but the rulebook on carbon markets had been concluded and India’s concerns of pending credits from Kyoto era has been addressed. India also managed to introduce the phrase “deep regret” in the Glasgow Climate Pact. The text states that it “notes with deep regret that the goal of developed country parties to mobilize jointly USD 100 billion per year by 2020 in the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation has not yet been met.”
“It’s very strong language. The text says that the amount will be delivered through 2025 and the text concludes that there will be a structured time bound process on evolving the new collective quantitative goal for post 2025,” the second official said.
Overall COP26 has been a success for India, experts said. “The principle of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR) is enshrined in the UNFCCC. Even the Paris Agreement has reaffirmed CBDR which is the fundamental principle of UNFCCC. More importantly, ‘phase down’ is the same word used in the US-China agreement presented in Glasgow. India has huge development imperatives but we have also made huge commitments on renewables. India’s intervention was a directional statement and India is making efforts to achieve it. There is no vast difference between phase out and phase down,” said Manjeev Singh Puri, former negotiator and ambassador had said on Monday responding to India’s stand at COP26.
The officials added that what PM, Narendra Modi presented at COP 26 were national goals for India but not a nationally determined contribution (NDC) yet. “PM did not mention NDCs, they are national goals. At some point we expect that we will send an NDC which will incorporate some or many of the goals that PM announced in Glasgow. Let’s not prejudge them as NDCs.”
During his address to over 120 heads of countries in Glasgow on November 1, PM Modi said India will increase its non-fossil fuel energy capacity to 500 GW by 2030; fulfil 50% of its energy requirements from renewable energy sources by 2030; reduce its total projected carbon emissions by 1 billion tonnes by 2030, and achieve net-zero emissions by 2070. PM Modi said he expects developed countries to make $ 1 trillion available as climate finance to developing countries to make this transition to decarbonisation.