India returned from COP21 having played a positive and proactive role in evolving a consensus on contentious issues and at the same time not compromising on the issues that mattered in preserving our development space and the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.
FEW things have generated as much interest worldwide as the climate change negotiations in Paris in December 2015. Seldom in the history of the modern world have over 150 heads of state and government got together as they did on November 30, the day the fortnight-long high-voltage, high-decibel negotiations commenced. Le Bourget, an erstwhile airfield, was converted into a convention complex to host the 40,000 delegates that had registered to witness what could be a historic compact or catastrophe. The shadow of Copenhagen loomed large and so did the manoeuvres of the developed countries and the aspirations of the developing world.
The challenge before the developing countries, or the non-Annex countries, was to maintain the sanctity of the principles enshrined in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The Annex countries, or the developed countries, on the other hand, wanted to do away with the ‘bifurcation’ represented by the division of the world into Annex and non-Annex countries. Their sole effort was to dilute the differentiation denoted by ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ and erase the concept of historic responsibility. Their argument was that the world had changed in the last two decades and that many non-Annex countries could no longer be characterised as ‘developing’. The argument propagated by India was that despite economic growth witnessed in the past 20 years, there continues to be wide disparity in the world and the developing countries have a long way to go in providing a decent standard of living to their citizens. It was this ‘right to development’ that couldn’t be compromised even while developing countries were committed to following a low emission pathway. It was in this pursuit of growth that they required technology and technology transfer, capacity building and financial support both for their mitigation as well as adaptation efforts in order to deal with the challenge of climate change.
The Paris Agreement on climate change was adopted on December 12, 2015. It is a legally binding agreement that covers all countries, developed and developing, with the aim to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change, in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty.
The salient features of the Paris Agreement are as under:
(a) It acknowledges the development imperatives of developing countries. It recognises the developing countries’ right to development and their efforts to harmonise development with environment, while protecting the interests of the most vulnerable.
(b) It recognises the importance of sustainable lifestyles and sustainable patterns of consumption with developed countries taking the lead, and notes the importance of ‘climate justice’ in its preamble.
(c) It seeks to enhance the ‘implementation of the Convention’ whilst reflecting the principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances.
(d) The objective further ensures that it is not mitigation-centric and includes other important elements such as adaptation, loss and damage, finance, technology, capacity building and transparency of action and support.
(e) Parties’ contributions under the Paris Agreement are defined as ‘Nationally Determined Contributions’ (NDCs), and a top-down approach of undertaking mitigation ambition has been avoided. The NDCs are country-driven and comprehensive.
(f) It maintains differentiation in mitigation actions of developed and developing countries.
(g) It recognises that the timeframe for peaking will be longer for developing countries.
(h) It recognises that enhanced support from developed countries to developing countries will allow for higher ambition in their action.
(i) It mandates developed countries to provide financial resources to developing countries. Other parties may also contribute, but on a purely voluntary basis.
(j) The accompanying decision to the Paris Agreement also lays down that US$100 billion mobilisation of funds per year by developed countries will be scaled up after 2020 and before 2025, taking into account the needs and priorities of developing countries.
(k) It also establishes a new technology framework. This framework notes the importance of fully realising technology development and transfer in order to improve resilience to climate change and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The framework also strives to support collaborative approaches to research and development, and facilitating access to technology, in particular for early stages of the technology cycle, to developing countries.
(l) A global goal has been established to increase the adaptive capacity, strengthening resilience and reducing vulnerability to climate change. Adaptation has also been accorded equal importance as ‘mitigation’ as demanded by developing countries.
(m) In addition to adaptation, the Paris Agreement includes the concept of ‘Loss & Damage’ and recognises the importance of averting, minimising and addressing loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change and extreme weather events, and identifies various areas of cooperation and support.
(n) A global stocktake, covering all elements, will take place every five years to assess the progress in addressing climate change.
(o) Implementation of REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) mechanism has been anchored in the Paris Agreement.
(p) A new market mechanism to provide opportunities for voluntary cooperation in the implementation of the NDCs has been agreed.
(q) An enhanced system for transparency has been agreed to. This will cover not only mitigation and adaptation actions, but also the support provided by developed countries.
(r) A separate Capacity Building Initiative for transparency to help developing countries has been agreed to in order to build institutional and technical capacity.
(s) A new institutional arrangement, viz. Paris Committee on Capacity Building, will be established for enhancing capacity building activities in developing countries under the agreement. Developed countries are to provide financial support for capacity building to developing countries.
(t) Pre-2020 actions are also part of the decisions. The developed country parties are urged to scale up their level of financial support with a complete roadmap to achieve the goal of jointly providing US$100 billion by 2020 for mitigation and adaptation by significantly increasing adaptation finance from current levels and to further provide appropriate technology and capacity building support.
The Paris Agreement acknowledges the development imperatives of developing countries. It recognises the developing countries’ right to development and their
efforts to harmonise development with environment, while protecting
the interests of the most vulnerable
The Conference of Parties also witnessed the launch of the historic International Solar Alliance (ISA), conceived as a coalition of solar resource-rich countries to address their energy needs and will provide a platform to collaborate on addressing the identified gaps through a common, agreed approach. This alliance was jointly launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President François Hollande on November 30 with representatives of more than 70 countries, including 33 Heads of State and Heads of Government, attending the launch ceremony. Prime Minister Modi also participated in the launch of Mission Innovation, the public-private initiative for collaborative research and development in cleaner frontier technologies.
The Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change set up a pavilion which was the cynosure of the COP. It hosted 25 events and attracted over 6,500 visitors, who appreciated the story of India’s multifarious initiatives and the manner in which the story was told. ‘Parampara’, a book on traditional Indian climate-friendly lifestyles, was launched by the Prime Minister at the pavilion.
All in all, India returned from COP21 having played a positive and proactive role in evolving a consensus on contentious issues and at the same time not compromising on the issues that mattered in preserving our development space and the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.
As PM Modi said: “The outcome of the Paris Agreement has no winners or losers. Climate justice has won and we are all working towards a greener future.”