Climate Justice: Unity in Third World approach needed
by Ashok B Sharma on 06 Dec 2015 0 Comment

Close on the heels of the November 13 terrorist attack, Paris has become the battleground for the fight between the developed and developing world over climate justice. A new legally binding protocol is likely to replace the Kyoto Protocol by 2020. As the battle lines are already drawn between the two warring camps, four issues have become contentious, namely, continuing with the common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR) as per respective capabilities in the new regime, equity in global carbon space, transfer of technology and innovation and transfer of finance to the developing world for mitigation and adaptation.


Industrialised countries have the historic responsibility for polluting the world since the industrial revolution through high levels of emissions. Hence, the principle of CBDR was recognised as the bedrock in the Kyoto Protocol. But the developed countries have not lived up to their responsibility by either committing to reduce their emission level to the desired extent or to transfer requisite funds and technology to the developing world which aspires for sustainable development with low carbon footprint.


According to the fifth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world needs to contain within about 1,000 giga tonnes of space for carbon dioxide equivalent emission to prevent the possible rise in global temperature beyond 2 degree Celsius. With this limited carbon space left, the fight is about equity for occupying this space. The developing countries contend that they have the right to development at par with the developed countries, but with low carbon footprint. Per capita carbon dioxide emission in India is only 1.8 tonne as opposed to Australia 17.8, US 16.5 tonne, Canada 15.9, Russia 12.4, South Korea 12.3, Japan 10.1, Germany 9.3 tonne respectively.


China, whose per capita carbon dioxide emission is as high as 7.6 tonne, has conveniently entered into an agreement with US to peak its emission level before 2030, that too, after shifting the base year. Despite this, China till date continues to remain with developing world groupings like G-77, BASIC and BRICS on the demand for CBDR, equity in global carbon space, transfer of technology, innovation and finance.


Saudi Arabia is another developing country where per capita carbon dioxide emission has reached 16.8 tonne. Realizing the gravity of the situation, Riyadh plans to shift to renewable sources of energy. However, many developing economies that have large population base have low per capita carbon dioxide emission. Therefore, the demand for equity in carbon space by developing countries, particularly India, is logical and genuine.


Under the Kyoto Protocol, the developed countries had pledged $100 billion annually to the Global Climate Fund (GCF) by 2020, out of which $ 10.8 billion that was pledged at Lima CoP conference is yet to be received. It is not surprising to note the indifference of the developed world towards rendering financial assistance. They failed in their commitment to render financial assistance amounting to 0.7% of their Gross National Income (GNI) to the developing world under the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).


The total Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) represents only 0.29% of GNI in 2014. Only Denmark, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden and the UK exceed the 0.7% target. One can only imagine what would be the level of actual ODA for the new 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with 169 targets. The Addis Ababa accord has noted $1 to 1.5 trillion annual infrastructure gap in developing countries and would work towards at least a doubling of annual investments for sustainable infrastructure. The Addis Ababa Action Agenda contains more than 100 concrete measures. It address all sources of finance and covers cooperation on a range of issues including technology, science, innovation, trade and capacity building. The developed countries recommitted to achieve the target of 0.7% of their GNI.


However, the Addis Ababa Action Plan has addressed the Global Climate Fund as a separate issue under a different account altogether. The SDG 13 has called for taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impact. There are other goals that are directly or indirectly related to climate negotiations. The G-20 at Antalya also called for a successful outcome of Paris climate talks.


Technology transfer and innovation is being debated in Paris COP 21 on Climate Change. The developed countries should commit to transfer of technology, particularly in energy, on easy terms to the developing world for sustainable development with low carbon footprint. Innovations should not be tagged with intellectual property rights and if that be so they should be made accessible to the developing countries through GCF.


Another issue that the developing countries have raised is fulfilling their commitments under Kyoto Protocol by 2020 before the new regime is likely to begin. And resolving the carbon space equity issue.


About 175 countries, mostly from the developing world, have already voluntarily submitted their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) aiming at reducing their carbon footprints, even though they are not obliged to do so under CBDR. India’s INDC is an ambitious one with a target generation of 175 Gigawatt of renewable energy by 2022 – 100 GW solar energy, 60 GW wind energy, 10 GW biomass energy and 5 GW energy from small hydro projects. The goal is to achieve 40% electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel by 2030. About 12 GW capacity of renewable energy is slated to be installed in 2016.


Plans are afoot to replace diesel by hydrogen fuel cells to power telecom towers, for which Prime Minister Modi has sought Britain’s help in securing hydrogen fuel cell technology. New Delhi has set the goal for reducing emission intensity of its GDP by 33% to 35% by 2030 from 2005 level, out of which a reduction of 12% was achieved in 2010. Plans are afoot to create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent through additional forest cover. As per preliminary estimates, India would need an investment of $2.5 trillion at current prices for meeting climate change actions by 2030.


Climate Justice, development of the “personal sector” for targeting the common man, concept of “new economy” based on the use of renewable energy and sustainable development with low carbon footprint has been the core of the Indian Prime Minister’s four addresses at the COP 21 in Paris. Modi did a laudable job of launching the International Solar Alliance for 121 countries in the tropics along with French President Hollande. India will host this initiative at its National Institute of Solar Energy for five years and contribute $30 million for the Secretariat. President Obama also launched the Innovation Summit at the Paris venue.


The future of the world would be safe if the developing countries, that have equal rights to development, would remain united in their endeavor to get climate justice through CBDR, equity in carbon space and adequate transfer of finance and technology. They should avoid any trade off of interests.   

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