Modi at COP21: India will negotiate hard to keep its carbon space

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday delivered a speech on making COP21 a success by promising to make India a champion in the fight against climate change. His speech comes at a time when recent government data has revealed that India faces a serious climate change threat.

Keeping in line with India’s position on ‘climate justice’ and ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’, PM Modi said that, ‘Climate change is not of our making. It is the result of global warming that came from an industrial age powered by fossil fuel. Yet, we face its consequences today, and that is why the outcome in Paris is so important and we are here today. We want the world to act with urgency. Agreement must lead us to restore balance between humanity and nature. We want a comprehensive equitable and durable agreement in Paris.’

All eyes are on India as recent statements from the French and the US government suggest that the country is being pushed towards a corner to commit more at the Paris climate conference starting today. The conference will see countries agreeing on a legally binding agreement to keep the global temperature below 2 degrees celsius as agreed under the Kyoto Protocol. Over 130 heads of state are in Paris for the conference.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will launch the International Solar Alliance with French President Francois Hollande and UN Secretary General Ban-ki Moon this evening. The alliance is a consortium of tropical countries to bring clean affordable and renewable solar energy within the reach of all.

Watch: PM Modi’s speech at the India Pavilion – COP21

The Indian delegation is leading on issues related to climate finance and technology transfer. In its submission to the draft agreement text, India has demanded for IPR-free technology for a faster adoption to clean technologies. It is also asking for reviewing of gaps in implementation of developed countries. The review is to measure the mitigation commitments of developed countries on their support provided for technology transfer, finance and capacity building to developing countries.

PM Modi reiterated this intention when he met Francois Hollande today. He said that ‘credibility of commitments by nations are a key to successful outcome at the conference.’ And also mentioned that India wants to make conventional energy cleaner and renewable energy cheaper at the launch of a coffee table book on India’s traditions of sustainability.

A recent policy document from CAN has suggested that Human Rights should be at the centre of the agreement text at COP21. India’s promise for providing a dignified life for its poor and marginalised is the main negotiating point for its 25-member delegation.

Earlier in the day, an opinion piece by PM Modi mentioned that he hoped to find a balance between ‘economy and ecology’ from the 12-day conference. However, PM Modi’s advocacy for climate justice on the international platform lacks lustre at the national front where 13 of the world’s 20 most polluted cities are in India. The NDA government has also come down heavily on the environmental watchdog, Greenpeace and has weakened several environmental laws and regulations in India.

Even with all the international pressure building up to phase out fossil fuels by 2050 globally, India is nowhere close to even peaking its coal consumption.

According to a media report, India has opposed phasing out coal by 2100. Jairam Ramesh, Ex-Environment Minister of India, said in an interview last week that, ‘India is certainly under the international gaze because of its coal consumption is expected to go up three times at a very minimum over the next 15 years, and this has understandably caused a lot of concern. Even China has announced that its coal consumption is going to peak by 2030. Coal consumption will increase in South Africa, coal consumption will certainly increase in Poland, but the scale with which it is going to increase, going from half-a-billion tons to at least about two billion tons by 2030, I think that is what has caused a lot of concern. It is understandable and we have to address it.’

Prakash Javadekar, India’s Minister of Environment, Forest & Climate Change had tweeted earlier today from Paris that, ‘There is much misconception on the issue of India’s coal consumption. Between 1990 & 2012 cumulative coal consumption of US was 21 Bn tons & China 43 Bn tons. Both put together 64 Bn tons. #India at 9 Billion tons is only a seventh of the cumulative coal consumption of US and China put together.’

PM Modi’s statement that, ‘Our commitment to tackle climate change arises from our timeless traditions and beliefs’ might get challenged by developed countries when talking about phasing out fossil fuels in the future. The next two weeks at COP21 might see India negotiating hard to keep its carbon space and for the right to develop. In any case, the final agreement text of the conference will have to reflect the need for developing countries to grow at a consistent pace and address their demand for availing finance for combating climate change.

Author: Pari Trivedi

This article was originally published on http://indianexpress.com/article/blogs/modi-at-cop21-india-will-negotiate-hard-to-keep-its-carbon-space/ on November 30, 2015