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Come together on climate

New Delhi should work on strategy with EU and China.

Come together on climate
The irony of the United States President Donald Trump's announcement during a White House Rose Garden briefing on Thursday that his country would exit from the historic Paris climate agreement designed to reducing carbon emissions to slow climate change is not lost on the rest of the universe. The world has been fully alive to this sort of a bull in a China shop behaviour ever since Trump assumed office as he began systematically questioning the superpower voluntarily shouldering responsibility for universal common good when the rest of the world is either reluctant or curmudgeon in bearing or sharing the big burden!

In declaring that the Paris Climate Agreement "disadvantages" the US and is triggering lost jobs and lower wages, President Trump unjustifiably stated that it unfairly favours what he termed world's leading polluters like India and China. While announcing the withdrawal from the Paris talks under the UN aegis, the US also let its intention be known to renegotiate the modalities for its future participation in the agreement. The previous Obama Administration took part in a focused way for years to ensure that the Paris Agreement is the best bet against growing weather aberrations that wreck almost all the nations invariably. It is rather sad that the current US President simply pulled out of the deal as if this meant nothing to bother but promised to renegotiate once the terms get agreeable to him or his country's priorities for advancement to make America great!

Even as the US had agreed under former President Obama to reduce emissions to 26 per cent to 28 per cent of 2005 levels by 2025—about 1.6 billion tonnes, President Trump bemoaned that "he cannot in good conscience support a deal that punishes the U.S—which is what it does - the world's leader in environmental protection, while imposing no meaningful obligations on the world's leading polluters". He went on complaining that under the Paris deal, China would be able to augment emissions by a staggering number of thirteen years with impunity for whatever they want they can do for 13 years. He also contended that New Delhi made its participation contingent on receiving billions and billions and billions of dollars in foreign aid from developed countries. This is simply not true because it was not India alone but many developing and emerging economies demanded from advanced countries compensation for past reckless consumption patterns of the rich world which were primarily responsible for acute climatic aberrations the world is privy to now.

Only last November, at the 22nd Conference of Parties (COP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) held in Marrakesh, Morocco, India emphatically argued that access to adequate and predictable climate finance, in both pre-2020 and post-2020 span, remains an overriding concern for all developing nations. Under the Paris deal, the developed countries have committed to mobilise $100 billion per year by 2025. Green Climate Fund (GCF) was set up under the UNFCCC as an operating entity of financial mechanism of the Convention. But, as of end-December 2016, $10.3 billion equivalent has only been pledged to the GCF, a modest sum reflecting the miles to go and cover. That is the reason why India reasonably argued at the Marrakesh conclave, the need for instituting pre-2020 actions by developed countries through funnelling the necessary finance, technology transfer and capacity building support to developing countries. But all these genuine pleas were galling to the US President Trump who does not want his country to waste its money on others or causes that meant next to nothing to him.

It is also utterly unfair on the part of the rich world not to see merit in the developing world's clamant demand for Common but Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR), the principle of a global environmental law establishing that all states are responsible for causing global environmental destruction but not equally responsible. Is it not too much on the part of Trump to question the underlying universal acceptability of this justifiable demand? It is small wonder that for all his whimsically wacky ideas even western media deride him by coining a now familiar epithet "Trump Bump" which invariably crops up to hurt global cooperation that is essential for humanity to live in tranquillity. This is not only in Paris Agreement but also in the WTO where the US found the former's dispute settlement machinery not in shape and also in NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) in which the US constantly spars with Germany and France for their measly contributions to the upkeep of security in the European continent.

For India, the withdrawal of the US does not mean anything much other than the finance part which would have flowed out of the U.S commitments for the green cause the world over. The Paris Agreement under UNFCCC relates to the post-2020 span, and its implications would only start after 2020. Currently, India is in the midst of achieving the gratuitous goal in the form of the pre-2020 voluntary pledge of reducing the emission intensity of the country's GDP by 20-25 per cent over 2005 levels by 2020. As per the India's first Biennial Update Report (BUR), 2015, the emissions intensity of Indian GDP is reduced by 12 per cent between 2005 and 2010 on account of a spate of policy measures. Subsequently, the Modi Government ramped up the efforts on the emission reductions front by instituting many spurs for non-conventional sources of energy and also made consultations with all the stakeholders to finalise the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) now christened NDCs. Such plans cover the setting up of 175 GW of Renewable Energy generation capacity by 2022, the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan 2020 for promotion of hybrid and electric vehicles and energy efficiency enhancement measures as part of National Action Plan on Climate Change.

Given Indian positions on the emission reductions commitments and the urgent need for global cooperation in funding alternative green technology in countries which lack the wherewithal to initiate on their own, the US withdrawal from the Paris talks means not much. Still, one can only safely surmise that the US would return to the fold as renegotiation under the extant pact is not a feasible proposition and that restoring ecological balance for ensuring sustainable living for one and all is in everyone's interest not to be made subservient to personal pique or excessive pride.

(The views expressed are strictly personal.)
G Srinivasan

G Srinivasan

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