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Thursday, December 02, 2021

On closing day, draft calls for an end to fuel subsidies, India among many who object

Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav put forward an example where subsidies on fossil fuels was useful from the development and health perspectives.

Written by Amitabh Sinha | Glasgow |
November 14, 2021 3:59:33 am
Bhupender Yadav, Glasgow Climate Pact, coal subsidy, COP26 conference, fossil fuel subsidy, climate change conference, indian express newsEnvironment Minister Bhupender Yadav at COP26 in Glasgow. (Reuters)

A call to end subsidies on fossil fuels in the draft text invited strong objections from India and many other developing countries but the Glasgow climate meeting seemed all set on Saturday night to push through an agreement despite several countries expressing their disappointment with the outcome.

One of the paragraphs in the draft agreement calls upon parties to accelerate efforts towards “phase-out of unabated coal power and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies”, the first such explicit mention in any climate agreement in over 20 years.

“The UNFCCC (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) refers to mitigation of GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions from all sources. UNFCCC is not directed at any particular source…  Targetting any particular sector is uncalled for. Every country will arrive at net zero emissions as per its own national circumstances, its own strengths and weaknesses. Developing countries have a right to their fair share of the global carbon budget and are entitled to the responsible use of fossil fuels within this scope,” India’s Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav said at one of the final meetings in Glasgow on Saturday.

“In such a situation, how can anyone expect that developing countries can make promises about phasing out fossil fuel subsidies? Developing countries have still to deal with their development agendas and poverty eradication. Towards this end, subsidies provide much needed social security and support,” he said. India’s position was echoed by China, South Africa, Nigeria, Iran, Venezuela and Cuba among others.

Yadav put forward an example where subsidies on fossil fuels was useful from the development and health perspectives.

“We are giving subsidies for use of LPG to low-income households. This subsidy has been a great help in eliminating biomass burning for cooking, and has improved health of women and in reducing indoor air pollution,” he said. India also pointed out the “lack of balance” in the draft agreement text and highlighted the lack of urgency in mobilisation of financial resources.

“The mitigation section (aimed at emission-reduction activities) includes annual minister-level round tables, annual NDC (nationally-determined contributions, the official name for climate action plans) synthesis reports, a new long-term strategy, synthesis reports for revisiting NDCs in 2022, regular updating of long-term strategy, a work programme for enhanced ambition for 2030 and so on. None of the same urgency, convening high-level meetings or commissioning annual reports or progress in meeting the finance needs, in mentioned in the finance part (of the agreement),” Yadav pointed out.

Several other developing countries also lamented the lack of adequate progress on issues of finance. The least developed countries, small island states, and the Africa group expressed dissatisfaction at the watering down of provisions in the loss and damage section.

These countries had been pushing for creation of a ‘Loss and Damage Facility’ to deal with relief and rehabilitation efforts for countries affected by climate change disasters. The final draft, however, only calls for a “dialogue” on this respect.

But with no more time left for negotiation, many of these countries said they would be ready to “live with” the draft agreement.

The European Union asked all countries to support the draft because this was still better than not having any agreement at all, a familiar refrain near the end of almost every climate meeting.

“Of course, we all have our national interests. And, of course there are many issues that need to be looked at later, and I fully understand when developing nations say there should be more finances on the table. And yes, we are only at the beginning of what we need to do on loss and damage. Yes, we are only at the beginning of adaptation, finance and everything that needs to be done. Absolutely. But for heaven’s sake, don’t kill this moment by asking for more text, different text, deleting this, deleting that,” EU lead negotiator Frans Timmermans said, speaking immediately after India’s intervention.

Progress was made on some of the outstanding issues of the Paris Agreement rulebook, particularly those related to the creation on a new carbon market. Developing countries like India have won significant relief with a provision being made for allowing old carbon credits, earned after 2013 under the Kyoto Protocol mechanism, to be traded at least till 2025.

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