President Biden will host a virtual Leaders Summit on Climate on April 22 and 23. His administration has reversed his predecessor’s denialist approach to climate issues and the US is expected to back this through new targets. This shift is welcome because it reflects science-based understanding and also the need for collective action. However, as environment minister Prakash Javadekar’s recent public statements indicate, India shouldn’t be pressured to commit to targets over and above those already set under the Paris Agreement, a legally binding international treaty on climate change.
There are two problems with pressure on India to commit to a shift by 2050 to net-zero emissions, a phase when man-made emissions of greenhouse gases are offset by specific actions to remove them over a specified period. The effort to get climate change commitments has so far not been backed by either adequate finance to meet the transition costs or mechanisms to facilitate quicker technology transfers. Second, a fallout of the pandemic has been massive economic disruption. As the global economic system readjusts, it will be self-defeating for an emerging economy like India to take on the burden of a net-zero emission goal prematurely.
India has been very sincere in meeting its Nationally Determined Contribution under the Paris Agreement. On two key parameters, targets are within reach. Emission intensity of GDP has declined by 24% between 2005 and 2016 against a target of 33-35% reduction by 2030. Also, share of non-fossil fuel based capacity in total installed electricity generation capacity is 38.53%. As India’s economy grows, incremental growth generates lower levels of emission. This trend will intensify with easier availability of clean technologies. Getting this mechanism to work better must be the goal of climate summits.
This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.
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