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India’s reluctance to review sets a bad precedent

By February 7, 2015 No Comments

Every country has to submit its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) before the Paris climate negotiations, to announce its actions and targets regarding mitigating or adapting to climate change. After the US-China announcement in November 2014, all eyes are on India and what its INDCs would constitute. Any strategy for India has to be based on analytical approaches, which seek to understand potential transition pathways, role of key technologies, investment requirements, and impact on India’s energy systems and emissions. A potential framework would be to integrate India’s concerns and develop a strategy, which would focus on energy access, resource efficiency and environmental externalities within the climate negotiation agenda.

Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar at a summit to discuss on India's climate policy, in New Delhi. Photo © Council on Energy, Environment and Water

Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar at a summit to discuss on India’s climate policy, in New Delhi. Photo © Council on Energy, Environment and Water

The government is “optimistic” about achieving a target to install 100GW of solar by 2020 and could go further with more finance and technology support.

However, India’s Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar made clear India would resist any outside scrutiny of its plans, in defiance of European calls for transparency. “There is no question of an ex-ante review in an independent country and democratic country like India,” Javedekar said at a conference, organised by Council on Energy, Environment and Water, in New Delhi. He was speaking about the road to a UN summit in Paris this December, where world leaders hope to strike a global climate deal.

Developed countries are expected to reveal by the end of March their draft contributions towards the international effort to limit dangerous warming. These will focus on cutting greenhouse gas emissions. “Since the last half century, emissions across the world have only been increasing. The developing world is now asking the developed world if they will vacate carbon space,” said Javadekar. India is among a number of developing countries also promising to publish a climate plan.

While the government has yet to say when the plan will appear, Javadekar said “we have already started implementing some of the actions that will form the core of India’s contributions”.

Citing the solar target, he added: “We are committed to make our earth liveable and business doable, where every citizen will have access to fresh air and water. The answer for India lies in clean energy. We intend to achieve the target of 100GW solar energy in the next five years. That is our nationally determined contributions.”

“We intend to achieve the target of 100GW solar energy in the next five years. That is our nationally determined contributions”, India’s Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar announced.

However, question remains: If India intends to achieve its target by 2020 (0r 2022), what will its commitment be in the post-2020 period, which is what the INDCs are meant for? Also, considering that just about 3GW of solar capacity has been installed in the last four years that the National Solar Mission has been under operation, the 100GW target is quite an ‘ambitious’ target even for 2022,  not to speak of 2020.

“There are some issues that cannot be wished away,” Javadekar said. “The first issue is cost. Who will pay the extra cost of solar power, for example? In countries (such as India) where indirect taxation is higher, the poor will end up paying more. So the world must come up with real contributions to the Green Climate Fund (GCF), which now has pledges worth a little over US$10 billion.”

“The second issue is technology. New technologies can bring down costs. We understand the need to protect IPR. So we are telling the industrialised world, pay your own companies for IPR from GCF. We must get technologies free of IPR cost.”

As a country in which 300 million people do not have access to electricity, cutting emissions is not top priority for India. More important is mobilising technology and finance, as well as adapting to the rising sea levels and weather extremes that are already affecting its billion-strong population.

The minister also said India intends to have its INDCs for a “10-year commitment period.”

Susheel Kumar, a top official with the environment ministry and climate negotiator for India at UNFCCC, said the government was striving for a “comprehensive and transparent” national climate strategy. That would be based on consultation with civil society in India, he said. “There is no room for international intervention.”

The European Union, in particular, had been pushing for a formal process to review countries’ contributions to a deal ahead of Paris. It did not get agreement for that approach at the last round of UN talks in Lima. But think-tanks and NGOs are lining up to assess countries’ plans.

But, India should have welcomed the review proposal and set a precedence for others. By allowing ex-ante review India could have put more pressure on rich nations to do more for least developed and vulnerable countries.

There has also been a tussle over what the INDCs should contain, with many rich nations wanting to limit them to mitigation actions, while developing countries have been pressing to add adaptation to climate change effects, finances and technology transfer to the list. Kumar said India’s INDC would contain all three in addition to mitigation.

Sudhir Sharma, advisor for Climate Action Network South Asia, said: “Setting a target doesn’t automatically lead to achieving it and we still need to have intense engagement with the government and encourage it to put in place the required framework to facilitate investment so that the target becomes reality.”

“The INDCs present an important opportunity for India to showcase its climate leadership through the communication of its past, present and future ambitions in the climate arena,” said Arunabha Ghosh, chief executive officer of Council on Energy, Environment and Water.

Climate march in New Delhi

Climate march in New Delhi

CEEW’s analysis suggests that India could push its ambition towards a target of 1,041 billion units of electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030. This would be greater than the cumulative electricity generation from all sources in between 2013 and 2014. However, this ambitious target would add a significant burden to the economy and may even make electricity unaffordable to a large section of its population. “Therefore, it is imperative that discussions around technology partnerships and financial mechanisms be an important pillar of any new climate agreement”, commented Ghosh.

Sudatta Ray of CEEW added: “Highly vulnerable countries like India need to press major emitters to increase their mitigation targets, and increase their ambition to reduce the vulnerability of its own population.”

There were also suggestions from the think-tanks to consider India’s effort to ramp up nuclear energy production as part of its INDCs.

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