From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : NA
Mains level : Climate change negotiations and climate justice
- In the climate negotiations, areas of interest to developing countries are not covered or sparsely covered, while other areas are over-regulated. Equitable sustainable development is not even discussed. At COP27, the policy debate was no longer legitimized by science.
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Problems with the current negotiating process
- Developed countries’ national emissions of C02 from consumption: citizens in developed countries are not even aware that two-thirds of their national emissions of carbon dioxide come from their diet, transport, and residential and commercial sectors, which together constitute the major share of their GDP; the consumption sectors are not independent silos but reflect their urban lifestyles.
- Ignores urbanization and requirement of fossil fuels for developing countries: the process ignores that global well-being will also follow urbanisation of the developing country’s population, requiring fossil fuels for infrastructure and energy to achieve comparable levels.
- Requirement of Infrastructure development in developing countries: the need for vast quantities of cement and steel in developing countries for infrastructure, constituting essential emissions, as they urbanise, is not being considered.
Discussion missing on developing countries to pace up decarbonization
- Late urbanization: As late urbanisers, developing countries account for more than half the annual emissions and most emissions growth.
- Cannot afford new technologies: They cannot affordably access many of the new technologies to decarbonise quickly.
- Not having a comparable level playing field: The result is a shrinking of their policy space and human rights, endangering efforts to achieve comparable levels of well-being with those who developed earlier without any constraints.
Why the foundation of the Climate Treaty in international environmental law is questionable?
- US interpretation in Stockholm Conference on the Environment (1972): In the run-up to the Stockholm Conference, the United States Secretary of States stated that “urbanization has changed the nation with seventy five percent of its people living in the urban area. we must see ourselves not only as victims of environmental degradation but as environmental aggressors and change our patterns of consumption and production accordingly”.
- Conclusion by scientific committee set up by the US: A scientific committee concluded that “long range planning to cope with global environmental problems must take account of the total ecological burden, controlling that burden by systematic reduction in per-capita production of goods and services would be politically unacceptable. A concerted effort is needed to orient technology toward making human demands upon the environment less severe”.
- Power play on risk management but not on the technology transfer: Power play framed natural resource use around risk management rather than technology transfer and the well-being of all within ecological limits.
Why climate negotiations are seen as Differentiated common responsibility?
- Missing the objective: The objective of the Climate Treaty is to avoid a concentration of cumulative emissions of carbon dioxide, prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system and enable sustainable economic development.
- Climate agreements and initiatives: The Paris Agreement (2015) agreed to a 1.5°C global temperature goal. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2018 recommended that net emissions needed to zero out around 2050. In Glasgow, in 2021, negotiators zeroed in on coal to reduce future emissions.
- Ignored the key findings of the IPCC report: This initiative was not based on science and it ignored the key finding of the IPCC on the centrality of the carbon budget, i.e., cumulative emissions associated with a specific amount of global warming that scientifically links the temperature goal to national action.
- Carbon budget and the developing countries: Carbon budgets are robust as they can be estimated accurately from climate models. And, they are the most useful for policy as they couple the climate to the economy consistent with the science of both. The IPCC, in 2018, estimated the budget for a 50% chance of avoiding more than 1.5°C of warming to be 2,890 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (now, it is less than 400bn tonnes), raising the question on how late developers will attain comparable levels of wellbeing.
Shortcomings in Climate justice
- Climate injustice flows from the negotiations and not from the text of the Climate Treaty.
- Rejected historical responsibility and shifted the burden: The process adopted the structure of international law in a manner that rejected historical responsibility for a continuing problem, and steadily shifted the burden to China and India.
- The flaw in set agenda: The agenda was set around globalised material flows described as global warming (the symptom), and not wasteful use of energy.
- Public finance is not materialised for actual objective: Public finance is used as a means to secure a political objective, and not to solve the problem itself. The $100 billion promised at Paris along with pre-2020 commitments constituting the incentive for developing countries to agree to a global temperature goal has not materialised. And, new funding for ‘Loss and Damage’ will be from a “mosaic of solutions”, constituting a breach of trust.
- Longer term trend has been ignored: With one-sixth of the global population, the developed country share in 2035 will still be 30%. Asia’s emissions with half the world’s population will rise to 40% remaining within its carbon budget. Pressures to further reduce emissions displace their human rights.
- India’s thrust on LiFE (or “Lifestyle for Environment”), with the individual shifting from wasteful consumption of natural resources goes back to the original science. Consumption-based framing challenges the ‘universalism’ that has dominated the negotiations and its common path of reductions based on single models. The carbon budget formalizes a ‘diversity’ of solutions. For example, in developed countries, exchanging overconsumption of red meat for poultry can meet half the global emissions reduction required by the end of the century.
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