High stakes for India as ‘make or break’ climate meet begins in Poland
India will be at the forefront of negotiations as a leading developing country to push for climate action when talks begin on Monday in Poland’s Katowice at COP 24, which multiple climate scientists are calling a “make or break” moment for the world.
This is because an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report in October, titled ‘Global Warming of 1.5 Degrees’, warned that the Earth will face devastating consequences of climate change if the world fails to keep global warming within 1.5 degrees Celsius of pre-industrial levels.
The report also said that commitments to cutting down carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, submitted by 195 nations under the Paris Agreement of 2015, which is to become operational as the Paris Accord in 2020, will fail to keep global temperatures in check.
Due to human activity since the pre-industrial level, the world has already warmed by 1 degree Celsius.
Discussions at the Katowice conference of parties (COP 24) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) are also crucial because the US — the world’s second most polluting nation after China — has threatened to pull out of the Paris Agreement, and that would mean the rest of the stakeholders will have to strive to meet climate goals on their own in the future. In the G20 Summit in Buenos Aires last week, the US reiterated its decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, and affirmed its commitment to economic growth and energy access and security.
India is one of the worst-affected by climate change because of its large population and a high share of poverty.
This is why Indian climate scientists are pushing for the drafting of rules for the implementation of the Paris Agreement in this COP. The Union ministry of earth sciences recently said that the Kerala floods were a result of climate change and that similar extreme weather events can happen again in India.
The UN 1.5-degree report also warned that India will be one of the worst affected by heat stress.
Crops, plantations, even livestock in 151 districts, or slightly more than one-fifth of the total districts in India, are susceptible to the impact of climate change, according to an annual review by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), a wing of the agriculture ministry.
The effects of climate change on India’s agriculture, which employs half the population and accounts for 17% of the country’s economic output, are no longer about distant projections.
The latest research, cited by the ICAR study, shows the impact of climate change will be increasingly felt , as demonstrated by extreme weather events — and manifest itself in economic, political, even social consequences.
The consequences of a 1.5-degree rise include extreme temperature in many regions, increase in frequency or amount of heavy precipitation in some areas and droughts in others.
If the increase reaches 2 degrees, the impacts can be too serious for communities to adapt to.
Joyashri Roy, professor of economics at Jadavpur University (on lien) and one of the Indian authors of the IPCC 1.5-degree report, said: “Since India has a very large population, the scale of climate impacts in India in absolute numbers will be very high, the human impact of climate change will be very prominent in India.”
Roy, who will be in Katowice for the discussions, added: “This COP is crucial. The IPCC will make presentations on regional impacts of climate change, the sustainable development goals, and the science of climate change.”
India’s 17-member delegation to COP 24 is being led by Union environment minister Harsh Vardhan. According to a statement issued by the environment ministry, a priority for India at COP 24 is to finalise the Paris Agreement Work Programme (PAWP), or the rulebook for implementation of Paris Agreement, which aims to keep the global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius. “India would like to ensure that Common But Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities (CBDR-RC), in the light of different national circumstances, are operationalised in all elements of the PAWP. The outcome of the PAWP should support the enhancement of ambition without backsliding,” a statement by the environment ministry said on Saturday.
CBDR-RC is a principle of international environmental law that establishes that all states are responsible for addressing global environmental destruction, yet not equally responsible because of the wide differences in levels of economic development between states. India held two meetings in November with the like-minded developing countries (LMDCs) — a group that includes China, Venezuela and Iran, among others — and BASIC countries — Brazil, South Africa, India and China — on drafting the Paris rulebook.
The BASIC countries also held a press conference in Delhi in November?in which environment secretary CK Mishra said the BASIC group wants to make technology transfer and climate funding from the developed countries a big issue at COP 24 “so that we don’t have a situation where they don’t deliver”.
In terms of historical emissions, the US is the largest polluter and environmental scientists want it to take moral responsibility for that. Developing countries expect it to transfer technology and funds to them to help them adapt to climate change. This will not happen if the US pulls out of the Paris Agreement. Also, it will keep adding to global emissions with its carbon-intensive growth.
“It has been three long years and COP is not ready with the rules for implementation of the Paris Agreement. Hopefully, we can have an agreement on formulation of rules in the next two weeks. India must also be ready by 2020 to do intensive monitoring and reporting required under the Paris Agreement,” said professor NH Ravindranath, a climate scientist from Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, who is also heading to Katowice.
India says it is on track to meet the Paris commitments. “India made a voluntary pledge in 2009 to reduce the emission intensity of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 20-25% from 2005 levels by 2020 (excluding emissions from agriculture). As per the various reports, we are on the way to achieve this target. India enhanced its climate goals in 2015 outlining eight goals for 2020-2030, including reduction of the emission intensity of its GDP by 33 to 35% from 2005 levels by 2030,” the Union environment ministry said in the statement quoted above.