Climate Change has become a global challenge, which requires an urgent global response. Bharat with a large population, highly populated coastal zone, several agriculture-dependent communities, and fragile ecosystem faces hurdles in implementing adaptation measures to tackle climate change. This challenge of climate change calls for extraordinary vision and leadership. Developing countries like Bharat carry the additional responsibility of finding resources to meet their development needs and strive to improve their Human Development Index. World leaders meet in Paris in December to adopt a new international climate change agreement since the Kyoto Protocol has not succeeded in achieving its desired goal.
United Nations Framework on Climate Change
Negotiations on what became the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change were launched in December 1990 by the UN General Assembly. An Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) was convened to conduct these negotiations, which were concluded in 15 months. The Convention was adopted on May 9, 1992, and opened for signature a month later at the UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It entered into force on March 21, 1994. The Convention now has 186 Parties and is approaching universal membership.
Bharat is committed to engaging actively in multilateral negotiations in a positive and forward-looking manner. It is a country where economic growth can be achieved with minimum levels of emissions by employing new technologies and finance. Its objective is to establish an effective and equitable architecture based on the principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities. Thus its climate change policy takes into account its commitment to the conservation of nature. Moreover at the same time, it also strives to strike a balance with the imperatives of meeting its demand of resources for addressing economic challenges.
Bharat Seeks Climate Justice
Bharat is participating in the all important Paris climate change conference with lot of hope and optimism. We expect Paris to produce just and equitable climate agreement where development space for the developing world must be assured. The developed world needs to vacate the carbon space and I hope that such commitments from the developed world will also come. Bharat has done much more than its capacity and much more than its fare share through the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). Our Prime Minister has always said that we owe to the future generations, we owe to the poor people of the world that they should not suffer because of climate change. So the mitigation of climate challenge can happen only if the whole world acts together and we will be facilitator.
These challenges include poverty eradication, food security, access to education and health, women empowerment, water and sanitation and sustainable urbanisation amongst others. The Constitution of Bharat itself lays the foundation for Bharat’s environment policy.
Various initiatives undertaken by the Bharateeya Government in this regard include the National Action Plan on Climate Change. This action plan is initiated through eight National Missions and outlines the priorities for mitigation and adaptation to combat climate change. Furthermore 32 States and Union Territories have prepapred their State action plans on climate change. The State of Gujarat was the first State in Bharat and the fourth State/Province in the world to have a dedicated department for climate change.
Why Paris Round is Significant?
For the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, the Paris conference aims to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius. The Paris conference is expected to attract close to 50,000 participants, including 25,000 official delegates from government, intergovernmental organisations, UN agencies, NGOs and civil society.
In recognition of the growing problem of climate change, Bharat has set up a National Adaptation Fund with an initial allocation of INR 3,500 million to combat the adaptation needs in sectors such as agriculture, water, forestry etc. in addition to sectoral spending by the above-mentioned respective ministries. Tax Free Infrastructure Bonds of INR 50 billion or approximately 749 million are also being introduced for the funding of renewable energy projects during the year 2015-16. Bharat has also communicated its INDCs in response to the Conference of Parties decisions 1/CP.19 and 1/CP.20 for the period 2021 to 2030.
Intended Nationally Determined Contribution
COP 19 in Warsaw held in 2013 invited “all Parties to initiate or intensify domestic preparations for their intended nationally determined contributions…in the context of adopting a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all Parties.” These intended nationally determined contributions are meant to be part of Paris outcome.
This INDC is based on the above mentioned 1992 UNFCCC and was formulated keeping in view, the eradication of poverty along with Bharat’s commitment to follow the low carbon path to progress. The INDC aims to reduce Bharat’s emissions intensity of its Gross Domestic Product by 33 to 35 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels. It also aims to achieve about 40 per cent cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel based energy resources by 2030 with the help of transfer of technology and low cost international finance including from the Green Climate Fund.
Bharat’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution
Bharat is the third largest greenhouse gas emitter and a primary leader of the “G-77” group of developing nations. Many members of this now 134-country strong group will be strongly influenced by what Bharat does.
The Green Climate Fund is a fund that was formulated within the framework of the UNFCCC to support projects, policies and other activities in developing countries Parties to the said Convention. Moreover the INDC also creates an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030. Bharat’s INDC rightly does not bind it to any sector specific mitigation obligation or action.
Issues of Contention
It is to be noted that INDC can only be successfully implemented if there is an ambitious global agreement including additional means of implementation to be provided by developed country parties such as technology transfer and capacity building following Articles 3.1 and 4.7 of the said Convention.
Bharat has advocated global collaboration in research and development, particularly in clean technologies and enabling their transfer, free of intellectual property rights or IPR costs to developing countries. The Kyoto Protocol has failed to achieve its desired goal and the world’s focus now shifts to Paris. A new replacement Protocol is the need of the hour, which has to mutually be accepted by all countries parties. The Hon’ble Prime Minister of Bharat has called for a global shift from carbon credit to green credit and replacing the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) as enshrined in the Kyoto Protocol with a Green Development Mechanism (GDM) will be a positive step.
Under the proposed GDM, Annex-I parties to the Convention shall undertake projects of quantified emission reductions in non Annex-I countries in return for certified emission reductions (CERs) and addition reduction credits (ARCs) depending on the quantum of the projects undertaken by them. This GDM would comprise of a (a) Technical Panel—whose role would be to set guidelines to quantify the development carried out by Annex-I parties in non Annex-I parties; (b) Financial Panel—which shall assist in arranging funding of certified project activities under the proposed GDM by setting action targets of emission trading;(c) Social Research Panel—which shall have the role to categorise countries in Annex-I, non-Annex-I and a newly created group of Annex AB countries. The Annex-AB countries shall be those countries that are most vulnerable to climate change impacts and lastly (d) Research and Development Panel—which shall promote scientific research and innovation of alternative sources of energy.
It is proposed that under the new Protocol, the decision given by the Technical Panel be final and legally binding on all parties. Furthermore in case of any disputes, the same maybe referred to a newly created arbitral mechanism, which shall then adjudicate upon the matter. The creation of an adjudication chamber is essential as the Kyoto Protocol does not have a dispute resolution mechanism. Another introduction could be that of an action target. This target would constitute a legally binding obligation to achieve an agreed amount of greenhouse gas emission reductions.
It would be expressed as a percentage of the country’s actual emissions during the period of commitment. Therefore, for example, if a country adopted an action target of say 3 percent for the period 2015-2018, it would need to demonstrate emission reductions equal to 3 percent of its actual emissions during this period. Under the existing CDM regime in the Kyoto Protocol, every country is free to choose its own action target but due to the non-binding nature of the Kyoto protocol, this action target cannot be legally enforced. Thus, under the GDM regime in the proposed replacement Protocol, these action targets would become legally enforceable.
Bharat’s current policy framework on climate change focuses on moving towards low carbon sustainable development and adapting to the impacts of climate change. Alongside Bharat is continuing to lay a balanced emphasis on its economic development.
Vikrant Pachnanda (The writer and advocate and founder of Bharat Law Journal.)