India Stepping Up to the Task at Bonn ADP

By Sudhir Sharma

The First session after the Warsaw discussions on Adhoc Durban Platform (ADP) is around the corner and the time has come for us to look what we as responsible citizens of India expect from our country in the negotiations. The writing has been on the wall and is being written on every day with the increase in cold storms, floods, heat waves, etc. The time for bickering and the playing the blame game is gone. India with other countries is in a leaky boat in the sea. To keep it from sinking, we all need to be bailing water out. It is time to act, now.

The Indian government has always been proud of championing the interests of smaller developing countries, but in Climate Change, it must accept that it has badly let them down. The fight for their interest would mean doing all by themselves and encouraging others to take strong action to ensure that global GHG emissions trajectory are at the minimum in line with the 20C goal. True, India alone can’t do it, but it has to be part of the solution to do it. As some one who has been in the sidelines of negotiations, I think the negotiators have forgotten the bigger picture and indulge in small bargains instead.

India could start by putting on the table what it needs to do to meet its energy demand and address environmental concerns. Energy efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) is a good foundation for both subjects due to India’s energy security concerns as well as the growing local air pollution challenge. Recent air pollution reviews in Delhi has shown that air pollution causing fatal damage to health, especially children. The Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) has prepared car fuel efficiency standards, perhaps not the best, but a start at least and the government should immediately take measures to implement them and work towards regulating it. Urban mobility is the biggest challenge faced today and public transport is the way to go, as mobility needs can’t be provided through infrastructure for private transport, as there is just not enough space for that. This is a development need and responsibility of the government to provide it. Losses due to time spent on travel alone have a significant impact on development. Similarly electricity for industrial growth is the key to development and fossil fuel resources in India are not adequate to meet its requirements, the electricity demand for the residential sector, especially in rural areas. Solar power offers a tremendous potential and so does animal waste (bio gas). This takes of the demand from more centralised resources that are needed for meeting energy needs of industry. Similarly in cities, rooftop solar offers a tremendous potential to take demand of the grid. Large investments now would enable it in the medium term to increasingly replace its fossil fuel based economy and address the constraint import of energy on its fiscal balance, which again has a huge downside for development. There are a lot of options for India that can mitigate GHG emissions in process of addressing it development needs and energy security.

Indian negotiators let the fear of being burdened beyond their capabilities derive the outcome in Warsaw. India needs to realise that the world community understands the development challenge they face and is realistic about what India can be asked to do, more so the international civil society. Especially CAN and its members have come out with a number of analyses to highlight that India can’t be asked to do the same as China, Brazil or other developed countries. In fact, CAN’s Equity Paper had put forth its equity framework, so that countries like India are only asked to do what is feasible given the responsibilities and capabilities of the country. The equity framework in fact addresses India’s biggest concerns, i.e., developing countries are not made to take the residual reductions because of weak commitments by developed countries. It was an opportunity for India to get the equity based approach in the negotiation, to guide the framing of discussions on what should be the basis for countries to prepare their nationally determined emission reduction targets to ensure at the minimum limiting the temperature below 20C.

Indian negotiators may not agree with the indicators or how the manner in which they are presented by the CAN Equity Framework, but the point of the discussion is to come up with what in every country views as an appropriate set of indicators and how they could be used to allocate responsibility taking into account historic responsibility and capability. It ultimately is a discussion that needs to be done and agreed by all. Harping on equity and saying its interpretation can only be done for a country itself, allows each country to do the same and provides opportunity to countries like US and its cohorts to put on table numbers below their responsibility and capability. This then can’t be challenged if countries go by the maxim for each its own perception of equity. The loser in the long run would be India and developing countries, as with the passing of time, the responsibility of emission reductions will increasingly devolve on them. Furthermore, the increasing cost of adaptation will eat into development financing of these countries thus affecting their capacities for development.

Negotiations at the Bonn session are crucial to ensure timely submission of national commitments by early 2015, so the session should conclude on the framework for defining national commitments. For a meaningful outcome at Paris to be possible, it has to be seen as fair and equitable, and now would be the time to put in place markers for assessing fairness and equitable sharing of burden. India should engage positively with the aim of putting forth what factors it considers important for a fair and equitable commitment by all. A first step to that is accepting the legal nature of these commitments and that it must be the same for all countries.  This session should then focus on not only on just the reporting format of national commitments, which is important to ensure transparency and comparability, but also how country proposals are fair and equitable, which is an important part of comparability.

In this context, given the current pressure faced by India on its IPR regime as well as its policies to promote growth of the home grown solar industry, technology is a key element of an equity framework. Especially addressing IPR issues so that companies don’t monopolise to make profits beyond what their investments require. To cite an example, Novartis, which had benefited from patent for 20 years on its cancer drug, tried to get another 20 years by slightly tweaking it, so that it could continue with windfall profits. This is going to be detrimental to developing country efforts to make a faster transition away from fossil fuels. Developed countries also should not use climate change as an opportunity to further its agenda for capturing markets in developing countries to foster their own growth alone. As is the case with USA, which has tried to corner the market for solar projects under India’s Solar mission by opposing the local content requirement required by Indian laws. These incidents shake the confidence off developing countries, and create distrust as climate change is then seen as a tool for further promoting developed country domination.  Developed countries need to understand that commitments from developing countries can’t be taken as an opportunity to further their growth without an opportunity for growth in developing countries. Thus development levels or lack of it has to be a key ingredient of equity.

India has an opportunity here to bring its concern in through defining its vision of equity framework, including issues of technology. In doing so it should also in all fairness include local environment impacts as a factor in the type of BAU development it will pursue. But if it hopes to stop any discussions and to get with the right to not explain its commitments, it is wishful thinking as it would end up harming its cause than aiding it. The smaller developing countries are looking for that leadership, which the developed countries have failed to show, from India.

About the Author:

SudhirSudhir Sharma is Senior Climate Change Specialist at the UNEP Risø Centre with over 15 years’ experience in Climate and Sustainable Development in developing countries, Sudhir Sharma comes from an engineering background and a PhD in Development Economics. His work has focused on mitigation issues in developing countries in the context of sustainable development. He has over 10 years’ experience in the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) working both in developing projects and developing methodologies. His present work at URC is focused on NAMAs, both, in terms of supporting capacity development in developing countries as well as analytical work on creating a better understanding of NAMAs. He is presently coordinating the country work on assisting seven countries in developing NAMAs.