As India prepares for the Conference of Parties (COP 26) of UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, terms like “net zero” and “energy transition” are popping up all over the news. India will be under pressure to commit to a deadline for achieving net zero carbon emissions. However, India is right in arguing that its low per capita carbon emission and historical energy poverty give it the room to transition towards net zero without having to commit to a deadline at this stage. Developed nations, however, highlight the urgency of the issue and would like to see India relent on the matter.
India is much more comfortable with the question of energy transition. India has also made significant progress in moving towards adoption of renewable and cleaner sources of energy, such as solar energy and wind energy. As per IBEF, India’s current targets are way ahead of the targets it set as per the Paris agreement. The government has posed ambitious targets of 227 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022. The targets for 2030 are a whopping 523 GW. Encouragingly, the renewable power generation capacity has grown at a compounded annual growth rate of 17.5% between 2016 and 2020. Thus, India’s commitment to and performance in energy transition is commendable.
While India is feeling the heat on the question of net zero, the richer nations are on a back foot vis-à-vis the question of climate financing. The developed countries have reneged on their commitment made at the Copenhagen summit in 2009 towards a $100 billion climate finance fund for poorer countries. They have fallen short by at least $20 billion even if one includes bilateral funds, multilateral funds and private financing. Further weakening the position of the developed countries, Oxfam argues that even these figures seem inflated. Most of the finance comes as loans and not grants. The question these appalling statistics pose is of essence. Are the group of richer nations affected by “the tragedy of the commons” on the question of climate finance? Timperley argues that “although rich nations collectively agreed to the $100-billion goal, they made no formal deal on what each should pay. Instead, countries announce pledges in the hope that others will follow”. Climate scientists have debated thoroughly on how much finance mitigation and adaptation measures require every year. The arguments are diverse and many. However, there is an underlying common thread in all arguments. The $100 billion commitment is the bare minimum and inadequate. The amount needs to increase progressively. Richer countries need to devise a roadmap on how they will raise the funds. Vague commitments on papers will do little to secure the future of this planet.
The richer countries with a legacy of carbon emission must be cognizant of the historical burden they share. The demand for greater contribution from them in mitigation and adaptation emanates from their history of ceaseless emissions. They need to get their act together on climate finance instead of grandstanding on global forums regarding the net zero deadlines that they have committed to. Developing countries like India, however, will do well to realise that while the historical blame lies on the richer nations, the developing world will share the contemporary consequences disproportionately. Therefore, developing countries must collectively cajole the richer countries to make good on their promise of climate finance. Global forums such as COP 26 shall be of value in that regard. Cooperation between the global north and the global south is the only sure way to address the complex problem of global warming and climate change. As the world prepares for COP 26, it is looking forward to a session where the richer nations exhibit moral leadership.