Monday, 30th October 2017

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Devil lurks in climate deal details

India stares at intense pressure

By G.S. Mudur
  • Published 14.12.15

New Delhi, Dec. 13: The Paris climate pact, widely described as a turning point, has set hard-to-meet or "virtually impossible" global temperature targets and will portend intense pressure on India to ratchet up its actions to avert global warming, researchers said today.

After a detailed scrutiny of the 31-page document, scientists and climate policy analysts said the accord's intended target to keep the average global temperature rise below 2°C would be difficult to achieve - and that to keep it below 1.5°C "virtually impossible".

Researchers have also warned that the accord, by turning away from a key concept called global carbon budget, sets the stage for ignoring the accumulated emissions of Earth-warming greenhouse gases, especially the large contributions of developed countries.

This is being seen as a serious setback for India and other developing countries because the agreement does not contain mechanisms to allocate the remaining share of the carbon budget in a fair manner - as India has consistently demanded. (See chart)

"This is a major political loss for India and other developing countries," said Thiagarajan Jayaraman, a climate policy analyst at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. "The accord allows developed countries to commit to emission reductions as they wish, disregarding their historical emissions and grabbing a disproportionate share of available carbon space."

The Paris accord, finalised on Saturday by 196 countries and prompting US President Barack Obama to say he believed it was a "turning point for the world", for the first time commits almost all countries to actions to reduce or curb emissions. But scientists have cautioned that the current sets of emission-reduction pledges are not sufficient to meet the 2°C target.

"The aspirational goal of staying below 2°C is not consistent with the pledges unless deep emission cuts of about 6 per cent per year between 2030 and 2050 are pursued," said Ottmar Edenhofer, director of the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Science, Berlin, Germany.

"This is a weak accord, a compromise deal - the biggest winners are the developed countries with their historical responsibilities having been finally erased," Sunita Narain, director-general of the non-government Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), said in Paris.

"It seems the world leaders have decided 'what' to do but failed to say 'how' that can be achieved.... Their actions actually put the world on a path to (a temperature rise by) 3°C and above, as not much enhancement in ambition will happen over the next 10 years."

Even analysts who have hailed the accord as a "turning point" towards finding a solution to the problem of global warming concede that it will require rigorous follow-up actions.

"This marks a new type of international cooperation where developed and developing countries are united in a common framework," David Waskow and Jennifer Morgan of the Washington DC-based World Resources Institute wrote in a media release. But they acknowledged the agreement was "not enough by itself to solve the problem (though) it places us clearly on a path to a truly global solution".

The current set of emission-reduction pledges up to the year 2030, researchers say, will leave India and other developing countries with very little carbon space to occupy. "So, pressure on countries like India to reduce emissions is likely to be ratcheted up in the years to come," Jayaraman told The Telegraph .

The accord has established a process to assess the implementation of pledges made by countries with a first review due in 2018 and an opportunity to review and enhance emission reductions every five years after that.

"India must fight for fair allocation of carbon space during the 2018 and 2023 reviews," Jayaraman said. "It must also consider a unilateral declaration of its requirements of carbon space."

A CSE study shows that already two-thirds of the global carbon space of 3,000 gigatonnes has been occupied, mostly by developed countries led by US. This space is equivalent to the total emissions that can be accommodated by atmosphere keeping the 2°C temperature rise in contention.

"As the developed countries, including the US, have now got the licence to emit under their voluntary pledges for the next 10 years, there will be virtually no space for the developing countries, including India, for emissions required for their development," an analyst said. "We're thus looking at no development at all or throwing the 2°C and 1.5°C targets out of the window."

Several analysts believe the pressure on India and other developing countries is likely to intensify from 2023 onwards. India, among other countries, is likely to be questioned on continued expansion of coal-based energy.

Some western analysts, however, say the exclusion of the global carbon budget from the accord need not be a worry for developing countries. "The agreement acknowledges that developing countries can peak (maximise) their emissions than the developed countries," Edenhofer said. "This implies that developing countries can use relatively more of the remaining carbon space."

Additional reporting by Jayanta Basu in Paris