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Global coal leeway may shrink as nation’s development progresses

According to the Paris deal, rapidly developing nations such as India may need to start ditching coal power after a review in 2025.

india Updated: Dec 21, 2015 00:52 IST
Chetan Chauhan
Chetan Chauhan
Hindustan Times
Paris climate deal,global Warming,India coal usage
The Paris agreement indicates that countries which depend heavily on coal to fuel their development, such as India, will have to reduce their consumption by a lot more than what was previously anticipated.(HT File Photo)

The Paris Climate agreement does not provide a ‘clear’ framework to protect the world from the dangers of climate change, thereby hiding more than it reveals.

The first and probably the last climate deal of this century indicates that coal-dependent countries like India will have to reduce its consumption much before than what was earlier anticipated. The obligation has fallen on all nations, not just the rich, and the most vulnerable nations are expected to get a climate largesse from an expanding band of voluntary contributors – the developed and emerging economies.

As environment minister Prakash Javadekar said several times, the differentiation in the roles and responsibilities of the two worlds – developed and developing – was there in all elements, but in a very diluted form. In fact, the firewall between rich and emerging economies like India has diminished to such an extent that it may vanish when the “dynamic” agreement is reviewed through a new methodology over the next 10 years.

The International Monetary Fund estimates that India would figure in the world’s top five economies and become its third-largest carbon emitter by 2025, when the next level of enhanced climate action plans – called INDCs – comes into force.

Most experts say that by then, India will have to announce an estimated deadline for plateau-ing its carbon emissions – which means no more use of coal, the country’s primary energy source. This could happen over the next decade, once the country’s basket of clean technologies become bigger and more stable, an environment ministry official said on the condition of anonymity.

While terms like ‘legally binding’ and ‘universal nature’ in the agreement sound pleasant, in reality many crucial parts of the deal are not binding due to the specific wordage. For instance, in the emission reduction section, the use of the world “should” instead of “shall” makes the pledge voluntary. Also, the $100-billion climate finance floor does not find mention in the agreement. It was a conference decision, which means subject to review.

The cheer over Paris delivering an “ambitious” agreement has been short-lived, with most independent organisations now saying that it will lead to a temperature rise of 3 degrees Celsius instead of limiting it to 1.5 degrees by the turn of the century.

According to Sunita Narain of the Centre for Science and Environment, the biggest winners at the Paris meet were developed countries, especially the United States, because their historical responsibility to fight climate change had been erased. “India got the right words in the agreement, but failed to operationalise equity and get its fair share of carbon space,” she added.

However, there are others who hold that India earned more life for its coal usage at the event.

First Published: Dec 21, 2015 00:22 IST