By: Radhika Khosla, Navroz K. Dubash and K. Rahul Sharma
Preparations for the December Paris 2015 climate negotiations are moving into high gear. Prior to the conference, each country is required to submit a statement of its intended contribution to the global effort to address climate change. In the lead-up, the Chinese government recently released its much anticipated climate pledge. What did China say, and what does China’s stand imply for what India will put on the table?
The Chinese package includes economy-wide targets along with a long list of supportive actions, policies and measures in different sectors. The overarching objectives for 2030 are: peaking carbon dioxide emissions around 2030 with best efforts to peak early; 60-65 per cent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP from 2005; 20 per cent share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption; and 4.5 billion cubic metres increase in forest stock from 2005.
More broadly, the 15-page document provides more detail than has any other country so far on actions for implementation, notably including the integration of climate and development goals. These details include means of shifting production and consumption patterns, improved accounting for emissions, strengthening climate risk-response systems, and stimulating science and technology innovation. Notably, all these actions are to be undertaken whether or not any additional climate finance is available from the international community, suggesting that the stated actions are motivated at least as much by domestic environmental pressures, such as air quality, as by climate considerations.
What can India take away from China’s contribution? China’s headline statement of peaking or reaching its maximum emissions by 2030 sounds ambitious, but in the absence of a level at which it will peak, this has correctly been criticised as a hollow statement. More substantial is the detail in elaborating sectoral actions. The lesson for India is that perhaps the road to signalling serious intent lies in highlighting transformative sectoral actions, which bend the curve of emissions downwards. If India shifted focus towards implementation in sectors, it could avoid potentially risky promises about the year or level at which its emissions will be highest, and still clearly signal that it is a responsible global actor.
Focusing on key development aims, which often bring climate co-benefits, can usefully be the central principle of its contribution. For example, India can signal strong commitment and demonstrate specific actions by highlighting programmes such as the Smart Cities scheme, which integrates clean energy, transport and water-planning at an important stage of India’s urban transformation. Ongoing Electricity Act amendments and enhanced state-level renewable energy purchase obligations indicate measures to streamline renewables beyond the declaration of ambitious targets. Such initiatives could be complemented by tackling the financial health of distribution companies, which address broader institutional and implementation considerations of clean energy penetration. Existing programmes to accelerate the shift to energy efficient appliances, and plans to make the building energy code mandatory nationally, can be augmented to achieve significant development and climate outcomes.
An Indian submission to the global negotiations focused on action in sectors, accompanied by a reasonable emissions intensity target, will allow the country to set its own benchmark for what counts as effective action. Further, it will achieve the dual objectives that should drive any contribution India makes. The first are India’s development priorities, the economic, social and environmental aspects of which must be explicitly addressed. Second, since India is deeply vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, an agreement for strong global action is in our interest. An Indian submission focused on co-benefits-based sectoral actions would align these two objectives so they work in tandem and form the basis of a strong Indian contribution to solving the climate problem.
The writers are with the Centre for Policy Research, Delhi.