On the climate crisis, a four-point agenda for Quad meeting
Quad’s first in-person summit on Friday will be held a month before the global climate summit, COP26. Quad forms a critical geographical arc that is home to regions vulnerable to multiple impacts of the climate crisis. As an important grouping, representing around a quarter of the world population and roughly 35% of the world GDP, Quad can play a consequential role in strengthening and enhancing climate actions globally.
However, there are crucial issues within the Quad countries that need to be addressed in order to ensure a joint action on the climate agenda. India has been acknowledged for its solemnity towards climate efforts, ranked 10th on the Climate Change Performance Index 2021, whereas the United States (US) stands last in the list, with Australia and Japan not displaying a noteworthy effort either.
Consequently, Quad should address certain vital questions: How can Quad effectively lead the region in reducing emissions as part of their commitments under the Paris agreement? Will it be successful in enhancing climate action without the participation of other existing international platforms?
First, to forge a collective pathway for climate action, Quad must address the striking gap of carbon inequality between the developed and developing nations by recognising the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s principle of Common But Differentiated Responsibilities, both in letter and spirit. For instance, it would be unjust for India that emits 1.9 MtCO2e of per capita emission or Japan with 9.7 MtCO2e per capita to compensate in similar proportions with nations such as the US, which accounts for 15.52 MtCO2e, or Australia, with 17.27 MtCO2e per capita emissions. This would allow Quad to reaffirm its collective belief in the principles of equity and inclusivity in the pursuit of climate goals.
Second, in order to be effective, Quad’s Climate Working Group should adopt a cross-cutting and holistic approach by functioning in close collaboration with its Working Group on Vaccines as well as Critical and Emerging Technologies. For instance, the cold chain plays an essential role in vaccine transportation and storage. The global cold chain infrastructure is estimated to contribute 3-3.5% of greenhouse gas emissions. Quad could reinvent a more sustainable system by exploring ways of greening the value chain while enhancing the life-cycle of vaccines. Additionally, knowledge sharing, technology transfer and responsible trade practices in emerging technologies, particularly green technologies, is a critical linkage, binding Quad working groups in generating valuable outcomes.
Third, Quad lacks a secretariat or a permanent decision-making body, without which it will be difficult for the group to confront the climate crisis. So far, it has solely come together to conduct joint military exercises, putting on display a united front and diplomatic cohesion. Therefore, it is imperative for Quad to reassure the global community and adopt a consolidated and integrated approach to strengthen its commitment towards combating climate. Even China, considered to be the driving force behind the revival of the group, to curb Quad’s ascent in the Indo-Pacific has announced its climate commitments towards achieving a net-zero target by 2060.
Finally, Quad should focus on actionable climate outcomes. The group can be an exemplar in institutionalising and delivering on a “just-transition framework” while attempting to design a robust climate mitigation and adaptation plan. Quad is best placed to conduct joint research, and demonstrate its capacity to put people and justice at the core of its climate agenda. Nascent steps by the US and India can serve as a fitting foundation to institutionalise the just transition approach across Quad, the Indo-Pacific and the world.
Quad can capitalise on the essence of democracy to further the vision and action related to the climate agenda. It is high time that a comprehensive, inclusive and fair approach of regional cooperation is adopted in dealing with one of the most significant global dangers of this century.
Aparna Roy is associate fellow and lead, Climate Change and Energy at Centre for New Economic Diplomacy, Observer Research FoundationThe views expressed are personal