India’s role at the climate conferences over the years, key promises, red lines

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What’s in today’s article?

  • Why in news?
  • News Summary: India’s role at the climate conferences over the years, key promises, red lines
  • India’s emissions
  • India at COPs historically
  • India at the recent COPs
  • India’s climate commitments
  • Indian Initiatives
  • India’s Groups
  • India’s red lines

Why in news?

  • As the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, India is a crucial player in the global fight against climate change.
  • India has, in the last few years, become increasingly proactive at the annual climate change conference, also known as the Conference of Parties (COP).
    • India had hosted one of these conferences — COP8, way back in 2008.

News Summary: India’s role at the climate conferences over the years, key promises, red lines

India’s emissions

  • One of the biggest emitters
    • Owing to its size and population, India has always been one of the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases. Its emissions have grown almost four-fold between 1970 and now.
    • Nearly 40% of India’s emissions come from the electricity production sector, while land transport contributes about 10%.
  • Low Per capita emissions
    • In per capita terms, India’s emissions are low, less than half of the global average even now.
    • Low levels of per capita emissions indicate lower access to energy, lower consumption and relatively lower standards of living.
    • India cites its low per capita emissions to counter any international demand to cap its overall emissions.
      • It argues that it needs to lift its people to similar standards of living as in the developed countries.

India at COPs historically

  • India a champion promoter of principle of Common But Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities (CBDR-RC)
    • Right from the 1992 Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit, India has been trying to ensure that the burden of climate action does not disproportionately fall on the developing countries.
      • 1992 Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit gave rise to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
      • One of the foundations of UNFCCC has been the principle of Common But Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities (CBDR-RC).
      • This principle emphasises that while fighting climate change is everyone’s job, the rich and developed countries must bear the bulk of that responsibility.
      • This is not just because they have caused most of the emissions but also because they have greater resources and capacity to act.
  • Took a lead role in the Kyoto Protocol at COP3 in 1997
    • Indian negotiators played a lead role in the Kyoto Protocol at COP3 in 1997, which was based strongly on the principle CBDR-RC.
    • A group of rich and developed countries were allotted specific emission cut targets, to be implemented in the 2008-2012 period.
    • On the other hand, the developing countries, including India and China, were free to take whatever nationally appropriate climate actions they deemed fit.
  • Gradual erosion of CBDR-RC& India
    • The CBDR-RC principle was gradually eroded in every COP decision.
    • In this period — between 2008 and 2015, when the Paris Agreement was finalised — India’s main effort at the COPs was to prevent this erosion as much as possible.
  • Paris Agreement
    • The Paris Agreement allows every country, including those developed, to decide and implement its climate actions.
    • Everyone is supposed to have a climate action plan (called Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs), but no mandatory targets.
    • Only a marginal distinction between the developed and developing countries has been retained, that too informally.

India at the recent COPs

  • In the recent years, and New Delhi has become more assertive and more forthcoming in offering its own narrative.
  • At the 2021 Glasgow meeting, India blocked the final draft outcome at the last minute and got the “phase-out” of coal changed to “phase-down”.
  • At the Sharm el-Shaikh meeting in 2022, India campaigned for a phase-down of all fossil fuels, not just coal, a proposal that is still too hot to handle for many countries.
  • India has also been energetically talking about the need for lifestyle changes to bring down energy consumption and emissions.

India’s climate commitments

  • New Delhi has submitted two NDCs till now.
  • The first NDC contained three targeted promises:
    • India will reduce its emissions intensity, or emissions per unit of GDP, by 33 to 35% from 2005 levels by 2030;
    • It will ensure that at least 40% of its installed electricity capacity in 2030 comprises of non fossil-fuel sources;
    • It will create at least 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of additional carbon sink through tree and forest cover.
  • In its updated NDC, announced in 2023, India raised the targets of the first two promises, having already achieved the previous targets eight years in advance.
  • It raised the emission intensity reduction target to 4%, and the non-fossil fuel-based electricity target to 50%.

Indian Initiatives

  • International Solar Alliance (ISA)
    • ISA seeks to promote the installation of solar energy across the world. It was launched at the 2015 Paris meeting.
    • The ISA has now evolved into a full-fledged UN-affiliated multilateral agency.
  • Coalition of Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI)
    • CDRI seeks to become the global knowledge centre for creation of more resilient infrastructure.
  • LiFE (Lifestyle for Environment) Mission
    • The International Energy Agency (IEA)analysis shows that simple lifestyle changes had the capability to reduce annual global carbon dioxide emissions by about 2 billion tonnes by 2030.
    • It also said that nearly 60% of these savings could be directly mandated by the governments.
    • India’s LiFEMission is now much more acceptable to other countries, and found its way in the final outcome of the G20 summit in New Delhi Declaration.

India’s Groups

  • India has been one of the original members of what is known as the G77 group, of the developing countries.
    • The name is a misnomer because the group has over 130 members now, almost the entire developing world.
  • In more recent times, Brazil, South Africa, India and China formed the BASIC group, which has emerged as a powerful voice.
  • India is also part of what is known as the Like Minded Developing Countries (LMDC) bloc, which has about 20 large developing countries.

India’s red lines

  • For long, any attempt to dilute or do away with the CBDR-RC principle was a big red line for India.
    • In practice, however, the principle of CBDR-RC has eroded considerably.
  • India’s new red lines are now more individualistic.
    • Any proposal that asks India to reduce its emissions is a strict no for New Delhi.
      • India’s climate actions are framed in terms of emissions intensity, or emissions per unit of GDP, and not on emissions directly.
      • It means that while India’s emissions would continue to grow, in the short and medium term, emissions as a proportion to the GDP would decline.
      • As a corollary, India also rejects any suggestions to define a peak, or a peak-year, for its emissions.
  • India finds unacceptable demands of an immediate shut-down of coal-fired power plants.
    • It insists that it will have to rely on coal for power production for at least a decade-and-a-half.
  • Emissions cuts in the agriculture sector is another no-go area.
    • The agriculture sector, along with animal husbandry, accounts for close to 15% of India’s annual emissions.
    • These are mainly methane, which is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide but remains in the atmosphere for a smaller period.
    • Agreeing to emission cuts from agriculture could mean changes in cropping patterns and has huge implications for India’s food security.

Q1) What is Rio Earth Summit?

The Rio Earth Summit, also known as the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from June 3–14, 1992. The summit was called to discuss environmental protection and socioeconomic development. It was the largest environmental conference ever held, with over 30,000 attendees, including more than 100 heads of state.

Q2) What is United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)?

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is a treaty that establishes the legal framework for international cooperation on climate change. The UNFCCC's goal is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere to prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system.

Source: COP28 begins today: India’s role at the climate conferences over the years, key promises, red lines