Climate and Us | It is time to discuss just transitions
The Glasgow climate conference (COP26) is over, but it has indicated the massive scale of transition that India will be making in the next few decades.
During an informal briefing to journalists, government officials said last week that India did not introduce the phrase “phase down” in the Glasgow Climate Pact text but it did introduce and push through another phrase which is to supplement phasing down unabated coal and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies — “while providing targeted support to the poorest and most vulnerable in line with national circumstances and recognizing the need for support towards a just transition”.
Officials also said that Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi’s announcements at the Climate Leaders Summit on November 1 in Glasgow are national goals and cannot be categorised as India’s nationally determined contributions (NDCs) yet.
While they said some or most of those announcements may reflect in India’s NDCs going forward, it is not correct to pre-judge them to be India’s formal NDCs for submission to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). PM Modi had 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 from now to 2030; reduce the carbon intensity of its economy by 45% by 2030; and achieve the target of net zero emissions by 2070. He also said that India expects developed countries to make $1 trillion available as climate finance to developing countries to make this transition to decarbonisation.
Clarity on when India will update its NDC and what it will include will help India strengthen its position in international climate politics and strengthen its call for equity in negotiations. During the past week, experts also said India should carefully quantify the finance needed for a “just transition”.
The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) describes just transition to be a principle where the transition from a fossil fuel-based infrastructure to a sustainable infrastructure must be just and equitable for everyone – from miners and communities to land and resources. Quantifying and laying down a just transition plan can help India also demand a just transition fund for its people under climate finance. Sandeep Pai, research lead at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, has flagged that India will need massive investments in the economic diversification of coal-dependent states and districts to non-coal sectors, skill retraining of workers and environmental rehabilitation of coal infrastructure.
South Africa, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States, along with the European Union announced a just transition partnership at Glasgow. The partnership will mobilise $8.5 billion for the first phase of financing, through various mechanisms including grants, concessional loans and investments and risk-sharing instruments, including to mobilise the private sector. Similar funding mechanisms can be a possibility for India.
While experts have also appreciated India’s strong stance calling for delivery of climate finance and differentiation in climate action, there was hardly any progress on climate finance at Glasgow. Parties have committed to a process to agree on long-term climate finance beyond 2025 and the agreed text commits developed countries to double the collective share of adaptation finance. At COP 27 in Egypt, India should work to strengthen these features and ensure delivery of the long-promised $100 billion from developed to developing countries.
It is also important for India’s leadership to be reflected through strong domestic policies on forests and natural resources. The Union Environment ministry’s Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) has recently decided to approve mining in non-forest land even before forest clearance is granted for mining in contiguous forest land in blocks where mining involves both types of lands. In FAC’s meeting minutes dated October 28, which were uploaded on the Union environment ministry’s Parivesh website earlier this month, and seen by HT, the committee approved commencing of mining in non-forest land with some riders. These policy decisions are neither assessed for their ecological or social justice outcomes, nor are they evaluated for they may exacerbate global climate justice concerns, Kanchi Kohli, legal researcher at Centre for Policy Research said responding to the FAC decision.
Last week, the ministry also proposed to exempt exploratory drilling for oil and natural gas and the development of infrastructure of exploration in inter-tidal areas of the coastal regulation zone. This proposal was issued as a draft notification inviting responses and objections to it after the Centre received representations from states and the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas (MoPNG) etc. These relaxations can compromise the integrity of ecologically sensitive zones in India. While the government paves the way towards a just transition, strong checks should be in place to secure forests, landscapes and people.
The views expressed are personal