July will see the world leaders in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, discussing a financing plan to help the developing countries in sustainable development. September will have them move to New York to agree on Sustainable Development Goals to replace the Millennium Development Goals. And finally in December world leaders will assemble in Paris to adapt a climate change agreement to avoid human-induced global warming.
Earlier negotiations were different than the ones which will take place this year in Paris. In previous negotiations, decisions were top down to limit emission of green house gases (GHGs) and there were no legal bindings. However, in Paris, each country has to offer what it would do to contribute to the world efforts to keep warming to less than 2 degrees. The hope is to make them legally binding.
Carbon-di-oxide emission increase by 40 giga tonnes...
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its Fifth Agreement in 2014 with an unequivocal warning that if the world community fails to take action soon, then the increasing concentration of carbon dioxide and other GHGs will put our planet on a path of temperature increasing beyond 4 to 8 degrees. This will indeed be a major catastrophe.
On per capita basis, India is one of the lowest emitters of GHGs. But on total world GHG emission table India is the fourth largest emitter with its share of 7.1 per cent. While the developed countries are taking steps to reduce carbon emission by improving energy efficiency measures, replacing fossil fuels through renewables and using less carbon-intensive energy sources like replacing coal by gas or nuclear, etc., those efforts are not enough. For developing countries like India which have to give higher priority to reduce poverty, it is not easy to adapt development paths to reduce GHGs.
Of the major emitting countries, the US and China were slow to take decisions to reduce their emissions. Finally last year they agreed upon their respective contributions but what they have agreed does not appear to be enough to keep the temperature rise less than 2 degree. Still there is a fear that the world community may put pressure on India to accept terms which may prevent India’s future development.
However when one looks objectively at the total amount of carbon put into the environment since 1850, India cannot be faulted. It is true that India, by adapting the latest technology available to decarbonize, can keep its per capita carbon emission low. However India can do that provided the developed countries are able to finance and share such an expensive technology. For India’s part, without waiting for such financing, it can take up several measures like reducing energy sector subsidy, promoting renewable energy sources and adaption of energy efficiencies, promoting public transportation, etc. These are the measures India should have taken to promote higher GNP growth in any case.
Because of India’s long cherished and practised values of “simple living and high thinking,” it is in a unique position to challenge the need to pursue the goal of wasteful and environmentally damaging development model to reach the so called higher standard of living of developed countries. Not only it is high time that the developing countries give up the goal of trying to reach the higher per capita income of developed countries, even the developed countries should start questioning the need for higher and higher per capita incomes and plan to stabilise at a lower level to achieve sustainable development.
India should point out that unless the world gives up the race of ever increasing GDP, it is next to impossible to reduce GHGs and to limit temperature increase to 2 degrees. Any objective analysis of the deep decarbonization pathways project clearly show that it is unrealistic to presume that the world can succeed to reduce GHGs by 2050 to limit the temperature increase to 2 degrees. It is here India can be a shining example by preaching its civilizational message of simple living and high thinking.