US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull America out of the Paris climate agreement will make it much more difficult for the world to attain global greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, even though its impact on efforts of other major countries, including India, is likely to be minimal.
The Paris agreement seeks to restrict the rise of global average temperatures to within 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial times — what science says is necessary to prevent catastrophic and irreversible impacts of climate change.
As part of its contribution towards this goal, the US had pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28 per cent, compared to 2005 levels, by 2025.
In real terms, this translates into a reduction of about 2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions from the 2005 levels of 7.4 billion tonnes by 2025. US emissions have already fallen from 2005 levels — it is currently estimated to be around 6.8 billion tonnes per year.
While Trump has decided to walk away from the Paris Agreement, he has not explicitly abandoned the emission reduction target, although he has stopped “implementation” of the actions to achieve the target. He also reiterated his commitment to reopen some coal mines and hinted at slowing down the reduction in coal power generation, all of which would severely erode that target.
Considering that the US leaves its target — certainly, a part of it — unachieved, other countries have to try to fill in that gap by making additional emission reductions in order to keep the world on the same emissions pathway. This will be a Herculean task for the other countries, especially since some of the other major players — like the European Union, Brazil and even India — already have far more ambitious targets and action plans than the US had put forward.
For other major players, though, the US decision is no more than an irritant in their action plans to deal with climate change. This is true of India as well. India’s pledge involved three big goals. The country said it would bring down its emissions intensity — emission per unit of GDP — by 35 to 33 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030; India said it would generate at least 40 per cent of its total electricity by 2030 from non-fossil fuel sources, and it also pledged to increase its forest cover to create an additional carbon sink of about 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent.
Besides, India has already embarked on a massive renewable energy programme involving installation of solar, wind and nuclear energy.
None of these initiatives is at the mercy of any US decision. All of India’s programmes are being financed by itself and being carried out with its own technology. India and the US do have a strong joint programme for clean energy and climate change but that is executed through bilateral mechanisms and has nothing to do with the Paris Agreement.
India has already made it clear that it would continue with its climate actions and has reaffirmed its commitment to the Paris Agreement. In Russia, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said India would be “responsible nation” with regard to climate change.