India has said it will not be able to commit to ratifying the Paris Agreement before the end of 2016, despite pressure from both the United States of America and China which decided to join the agreement on Saturday. The Paris Agreement requires member countries to make binding commitments to limit global temperature increase well below 2 degrees Celsius.
Sherpas of the 20 countries meeting at Hangzhou for three days, beginning 6 pm on August 31, remained huddled till almost 2.30 am on Saturday to reach an agreement on a draft of the G20 communique that would be presented to the heads of governments of the 20 countries. Prime Minister Narendra Modi landed in Hangzhou for the G20 Summit late Saturday evening.
“We have sought flexibility. Yes, we are committed to ratifying it, but cannot complete the domestic procedures by 2016-end,” Arvind Panagariya, sherpa to Prime Minister Narendra Modi told The Sunday Express. The final G20 communique may address India’s concerns.
This is the first time that India has explicitly said it would not be able to ratify the Paris Agreement, finalised in December last year in the French capital, by the end of this year. Earlier statements, from ministers and officials, never ruled out this option, and the general refrain was that it would ratify the agreement as soon as possible.
The India-US joint statement during Modi’s trip to the US in June said both countries shared the goal of “enabling entry into force of the Paris Agreement as early as possible”.
“The United States affirms its commitment to join the agreement as soon as possible this year. India similarly has begun its processes to work towards this shared objective,” it had said.
The Paris Agreement would come into force after at least 55 countries, together accounting for at least 55 per cent of global greenhouse gases, ratify it. Both conditions need to be met. With US and China joining, 26 countries have so far ratified the agreement. Together, these countries account for slightly less than 40 per cent of global emissions. Before China and US, the other nations that ratified the Paris Agreement account for only 1 per cent of emissions.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Barack Obama presented their instruments of joining the Paris Agreement separately to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who is in Hangzhou for the G20 Summit. Their joint announcement will put pressure on other developing countries, specifically India, to ratify it before 2016 ends.
The Paris Agreement was the “single best chance to deal with a problem that could end up transforming this planet”, said Obama in a speech in Hangzhou. Depositing the documents together, China and the US have displayed their ambition and determination to jointly tackle a global challenge, Xi was quoted as saying by Xinhua news agency.
India was supported by Turkey which articulated a similar position on climate change. “One of the most contentious issues during the sherpa meetings was climate change. We have synergies built up with Turkey, South Asia and Indonesia. Our positions are common,” said Panagariya. “There is no deadline to my mind, but we will make submissions of progress,” he said, when asked if the UNFCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) was keen on a December 2016 deadline. India is also not keen to specify a “date certain” for putting an end to fossil fuel subsidies. While this has been on the agenda since 2009, US has been pushing this in G20 forum over the last two years.
When asked what holds back India from committing itself to the December 2016 timeline, Panagariya said, “It is a matter of internal procedures. We are a country of laws. You have to put in place those procedures,” he said.
On ending fossil fuel subsidies, he said India has already moved considerable ground on this. “Here too, it is difficult for us to give a specific date,” he added. In an interview earlier, Panagariya said subsidies on cooking gas and free electricity (from coal-fired thermal power plants) to farmers will take a while to end in a developing country like India.
The final G20 communique, scheduled to be released on September 5, will most likely take into consideration the concerns expressed by India and other developing countries. The communique is expected to be strongly worded against protectionism, encourage openness, seek coordinated global efforts in reviving the world economy, and also include a section on terror financing and refugees.