Climate deal brings pressure on India

The deal between the US and China on reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions marks an important step forward in the efforts to reduce global warming and avert climate change.

The deal is notable for many reasons. It was negotiated bilaterally without the involvement the multilateral United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process.

The US and China are the two biggest emitters of carbon gases and so their actions for reduction of emissions will have an impact on global GHG levels.

They have till now been adversaries in the climate change debate with China leading the developing countries’ demands and the US leading the developed countries refusal to make any sizeable reductions.

The US has not even endorsed the only international agreement on climate issues, the Kyoto Protocol, which needs to be replaced soon. The differences between the two sides made all the past attempts to arrive at a comprehensive agreement fruitless.

The commitments made by the two countries are different and show different approaches to curb gas emissions. While the US has promised to reduce emissions by 26 to 28 per cent of their 2005 levels by 2025, China has pledged to peak its emissions by 2030 and to increase the share of renewable energy sources like wind and solar power to 20 per cent of its energy basket.

While the US will have to reduce the share of coal, China will have to increase the contribution of other sources.

With the Republicans, who are against any cuts in emissions on the ground that they will affect economic growth, now dominating Congress, President Obama will find it difficult to get legislative sanction for his deal.

China will be aided by slowing growth but it will have to make huge investments in alternative sources of energy to make good its commitment.

The US-China  deal comes in the wake of a commitment by the European Union countries to make a 40 per cent reduction in GHG emissions by 2030.

They set the stage for the coming UN-sponsored meeting in Lima and Paris where a final agreement needs to be concluded. They also put pressure on other major emitters, including India, to make similar commitments.

India’s case is different from all others because, even though it is a major emitter, its per capita emissions are very low. It has already stated that its average per capita emission would be capped below the world average.

But it has been disinclined to set targets for quantitative reductions as its level of economic growth is much below those of developed countries and even China.

India will have to formulate a strategy that suits its needs and ensures the success of the UNFCCC process.

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