India’s scheduled ratification on Sunday of the Paris Agreement on climate change will give it an edge in shaping future rules on emissions, but the landmark treaty may not achieve much in reducing mankind’s overall carbon footprint, according to environmentalists.
India, the world’s second most populous country and among its most robust economies, is its fourth biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists and the World Resources Institute (WRI).
“India would gain political benefits by being one of the early ratifiers in devising details to the rule book to be framed on different aspects pertaining to the reduction of global emissions, such as rules related to carbon stock markets, financing and adaptation,” Vijeta Rattani, a climate analyst at the Center for Science and Environment, a policy think-tank in New Delhi, told BenarNews.
“But the treaty is too weak and inadequate to achieve any substantial results,” she said.
India’s Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, this week approved ratification of the Paris Agreement, with the government calling it a “historic decision.”
“With the ratification, India will be one of the key countries instrumental in bringing the Paris Agreement into force,” Union Minister Prakash Javadekar told reporters.
Ratified by 61 nations
A total of 192 countries have signed the Paris Agreement which was adopted on Dec. 12, 2015. But according to the terms of the pact, the treaty would come into force only after 55 countries contributing to 55 percent of the global greenhouse emissions ratify it.
The signatories agreed to work collectively to keep Earth’s temperature rise “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels, and “to pursue efforts” to limit a planetary temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), according to the United Nations.
Global warming happens when greenhouse gases trap heat in the planet’s atmosphere, causing polar icecaps to melt and sea levels to rise, according to scientists.
So far, 61 nations have ratified the agreement, accounting for a total of 47.79 percent of the global greenhouse gas emissions. India’s ratification on Sunday would take that figure to 51.89 percent.
During ratification of the Paris deal, India would spell out that “it would treat its national laws, development agenda, availability of means of implementation, its assessment of global commitment to combating climate change and predictable and affordable access to cleaner sources of energy as the context in which the agreement would be ratified,” a government source told BenarNews.
The Paris Agreement pertains to post-2020 climate actions. In the pre-2020 period, developed countries would follow the Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty in operation since 2005 that assigns countries to reduce greenhouse emissions based on their historic carbon footprint.
The Paris Agreement intends to reduce the emissions from 50 to 40 gigatons, or to 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial levels. Some developing countries have pledged to reduce carbon footprints in the form of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).
India has declared it intends to reduce the intensity of its emissions by 35 percent and build 40 percent capacity for power generation from non-fossil fuels by 2030. Besides taxing coal at $6 per ton, India has set an ambitious target of generating 175 gigawatts by 2022.
Rattani said that while India was serious about tackling climate change, a global effort was required to achieve desired results.
“India still needs to work on the basic infrastructure and lots of regulations to achieve the 2030 targets,” Rattani said, while noting that the agreement itself was flawed.
“The means of implementation in the form of technology transfer, financing and capacity building are not adequately addressed. You need at least a trillion dollars to achieve the INDCs. Unless there is a commitment from developed countries, the INDCs would remain unfulfilled,” she said.
Soumya Dutta of India Climate Justice agreed.
“India has not given any target of total emission cuts nor has it given any commitment on the reductions period. Only committing to reductions in energy intensity is no big deal. India has also not said anything about cutting on its own coal consumption,” Dutta told BenarNews.
However, according to Manish Srivastava, a researcher at the Earth Sciences and Climate Change Division of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in New Delhi, the deal has given enough flexibility to countries including India in exploring options, and is potentially supportive of financial needs.
“The agreement is based on self-differentiated nationally determined contributions by countries and aims to ensure making financial flows consistent with the 2-degree goal. But financial flows are determined by a number of factors and it is not clear how the agreement will make financial flows consistent with the goal,” he told BenarNews.