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US-China climate move puts focus on India

Emission Cut: Chinese decision may put pressure on New Delhi to follow suit.

Written by Amitabh Sinha | New Delhi |
November 13, 2014 2:21:52 am

With the US and China announcing specific pledges to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, the focus is likely to turn to India, the world’s fourth biggest emitter, to follow suit and take actions to rein in its growing emissions.

In a surprise revelation, the US and China Wednesday said they had reached a groundbreaking agreement on climate change, according to which the US would cut its emissions by 26 to 28 per cent by 2025 compared to 2005 levels. China, on the other hand, had agreed to ensure that its emissions would start declining in absolute terms from the year 2030.

The US was already committed to a 17 per cent cut in emissions by 2020 from 2005 levels and this agreement raises the level of its ambition. For China, this is the first time that it has offered to start reducing its emissions even if it is to begin after 16 years. With the European Union having already promised much deeper cuts, 40 per cent by 2030 relative to 1990 levels, the world’s three biggest polluters have now put their offers on the plate ahead of the annual climate conference in Lima, Peru.

India is not mandated to make any emission cuts but the Chinese decision might raise expectations from New Delhi as well.
A member of the reconstituted Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change said this expectation, if it does arise, would be totally unfounded.

“All that China has done is to acknowledge that it has reached a level of development from where it can take emission cuts. The Chinese per capita income is already comparable with the rich world. And it still has 16 years to let its emissions grow. By that time, it would be meaningless for China to let its emissions grow. Economically and technologically, it would make much more sense to start cutting emissions. Nothing of that is true for India. To expect India to do something similar to China is not sensible,” he said.

In the run-up to the Copenhagen climate conference in 2009 India had offered to reduce its carbon intensity — the amount of carbon emitted per unit of GDP — by 20 to 25 per cent by the year 2025. India is well on course to achieving that target.

Navroz Dubash of the Centre of Policy Research, also a member of the IPCC, said the US-China agreement, though welcome, might fall short of what was required of them.

“This is smart politics. The US target and the Chinese peaking year will certainly require some effort, but are probably not stretch targets. And it allows both countries to claim leadership in breathing life into the climate talks. The reason for hope is that this move really infuses energy into the only global process we have. The reason for scepticism is that this may well be short of what is needed from the two biggest polluters,” he said.

He agreed that the US-China pact might put the focus on India. “But India has to announce its INDCs (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions) in any case. We don’t know what these INDCs are going to look like,” he said.

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