Climate Change

Climate Emergency CoP 25: India’s mixed role

India continued to push developed countries on climate action but played a less-than-constructive role on other issues

By Kapil Subramanian
Published: Monday 16 December 2019
Photo: Prakash Javadekar / Twitter

India played a mixed role at the recently concluded 25th Conference of Parties (CoP 25) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change at Madrid. The headline-grabbing moment was when Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar made some questionable claims about India’s climate action, of which it can nevertheless be justifiably proud.

On the question of markets, the minister emphasised the transition of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) credits earned under the Kyoto Protocol to the Paris Agreement. He effectively demanded the carryover of the untraded emission reduction certificates held by Indian companies (estimated at 750 million Certified Emissions Reductions or CERs), which they can sell to raise funds.

For an Indian official, the issue went beyond money to the very “credibility of the UNFCCC process”, but others pointed out that that excessively cheap emissions reductions enabled by the CDM as well as the possibility of double counting could corrupt the process.

Some developed countries have their own credits in the Kyoto closet (called Assigned Amount Units or AAUs) which, if carried over, can obviate the need to engage in any climate effort whatsoever to achieve their Paris targets. Together, various kinds of Kyoto credits amount to about 4 billion gigatonnes of carbon dioxide; and the financial national interest represented by the carryover of these credits stymied any progress on the markets rulebook.

The finalisation of the rulebook has been put off, yet again, to next year’s CoP 26 to be held in Glasgow, which will put great strain on next year’s agenda. It may well put a squeeze on the attention devoted in next year's CoP to the crucial question of raising the level of climate ambition in the next round of Paris targets.

On the question of ‘loss and damage’, the minister urged developed countries to give financial teeth to the Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage (WIM). The Warsaw Mechanism has been resisted by these countries due to their paranoia (officially enshrined) that the provision of finance would imply admission of legal liability.

Some developing countries have taken the view that it would be impossible to obtain finance to compensate for loss and damage, but that it might be possible to reach a compromise on getting finance to prevent loss and damage. As some experts had feared, such a seemingly pragmatic stand has merely played into the worst instincts of big polluters.

The debate at the CoP was initially to be centered on the finance arm of the WIM, as well as the Green Climate Fund. However, what eventually emerged in the final decision was a mere “Santiago Network of experts” to “catalyse the technical assistance of relevant organisations, bodies, networks and experts”, toward the “implementation of relevant approaches".

India played a strong role in critiquing the developed world’s continuing poor record on climate action.

It argued that unless a stocktaking exercise of the fulfillment of various pre-2020 commitments by developed countries (such as those made at Copenhagen, Cancun and Kyoto) showed that they were making significant progress, India would not raise its climate ambition for its next round of Paris Agreement targets due in 2020.

It is entirely appropriate for countries such as India to insist on not taking on an even more unfair share of the global mitigation burden unless developed countries deliver on the minimal parameter of fulfilling their existing promises.

India also took a lead in calling for more finance for developing countries for climate action, with the minister emphasising that “not even 2 per cent” of the promised “$1 trillion in the last 10 years” had been delivered.

It is crucial that India continue to push developed countries in this fashion as the entire global climate action framework has been put in jeopardy by the inaction of big polluters.

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