India’s announcement that it will ratify the Paris Agreement on climate change on October 2 now makes it evident that the position it had taken during the G-20 meeting earlier this month was a mere posturing aimed at some other objective.
At that time, NITI Aayog vice-chairman Arvind Panagariya, acting as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s sherpa, had categorically ruled out India’s ratification this year. He had said India would not be able to complete the “domestic procedures” leading up to the ratification.
However, ratification of this agreement is a single-step process in India, requiring just the approval of the union cabinet. The “procedures” that Panagariya referred to most probably relate to the ongoing consultations on the steps to be taken to fulfil commitments India had made in its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) submitted last year. After submission, these have become Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs.
During the run-up to the Paris climate change conference last year, India, like every other country, had proposed a series of actions it intended to take to contribute in the global fight against climate change. It had said it would ensure that its greenhouse gas emissions per unit of GDP in 2030 was at least one-third lesser than what it used to be in 2005. India had also promised to produce about 40 per cent of its electricity in 2030 from “non fossil-based sources” like solar energy, wind or hydropower. It had also offered to rapidly increase its forest cover so that an additional carbon sink of about 2.5 to three billion tonnes is created by the year 2030.
To achieve these targets, India would need to initiate steps on several fronts. It was to identify these steps that the Environment Ministry, at the start of the year, had constituted at least six groups. These groups are still at work. They have been asked to suggest what kind of new policies or even legislation need to be brought in to help achieve the targets. The groups are holding consultations with all the related ministries. Once that exercise is over, the government will start acting on the groups’ recommendations.
This entire exercise is unlikely to be completed by the end of this year, as Panagariya suggested. However, the ratification of the Paris Agreement is not dependent on this exercise getting completed. Ratification only conveys India’s decision to formally join the Paris Agreement, and agree to abide by its provisions. Since India’s joining the Agreement has never been in doubt, it can decide to ratify anytime it wants.
The situation is slightly different in countries which require Parliamentary approval to ratify international agreements. In those countries, the ratification process can be slightly lengthy.