Climate Change Negotiations – UNFCCC, COP, Other Conventions and Protocols

The climate policy needs new ideas


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Paris Agreement

Mains level: Paper 3- Climate change policies and issues with them

The article highlights the issues with the current climate policies which are centred on the inequality.

Inequality and climate change

  • Inequity is built into the climate treaty, which considers total emissions, size, and population, making India the fourth largest emitter.
  • According to the United Nations, the richest 1% of the global population emits more than two times the emissions of the bottom 50%.
  • .China, with four times the population of the U.S., accounts for 12% of cumulative emissions.
  • India, with a population close to that of China’s, for just 3% of cumulative emissions that lead to global warming.
  • In an urbanized world, two-thirds of emissions arise from the demand of the middle class for infrastructure, mobility, buildings, and diet.
  • Well-being in the urbanized world is reflected in saturation levels of infrastructure.
  • Growth in the developed countries is consumption-driven not production driven.
  • The vaguely worded ‘carbon neutrality’, balancing emitting carbon with absorbing carbon from the atmosphere in forests is a triple whammy for latecomers like India.
  • Such countries already have less energy-intensive pathways that will not encroach on others’ ecological space, a young population, and are growing fast to reach comparable levels of well-being with those already urbanized and in the middle class.

What changes are required in the policies

  • At present, the focus is on physical quantities which indicates effects on nature.
  • The solutions require analysis of drivers, trends, and patterns of resource use. 
  • This anomaly explains why the link between well-being, energy use, and emissions is not on the global agenda.
  • Modifying unsustainable patterns of natural resource use and ensuring comparable levels of well-being are societal transformations.
  • New thinking must enable politics to acknowledge transformational social goals and the material boundaries of economic activity.

India’s unique national circumstances

  • India must highlight its unique national circumstances.
  • For example, the meat industry, especially beef, contributes to one-third of global emissions.
  • Indians eat just 4 kg of meat a year compared to those in the European Union who eat about 65 kg.
  • Also to be noted is the fact that the average American household wastes nearly one-third of its food.
  • Transport emissions account for a quarter of global emissions.
  • Transport emissions are the symbol of Western civilization and are not on the global agenda.
  • Rising Asia uses three-quarters of coal drives industry and supports the renewable energy push into cities.
  • India, with abundant reserves and per capita electricity use that is one-tenth that of the U.S., is under pressure to stop using coal.

Way forward

  • India has the credibility and legitimacy to push an alternate 2050 goal for countries currently with per capita emissions below the global average.
  • These goals should include well-being within ecological limits, the frame of the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as multilateral technological knowledge cooperation around electric vehicles, energy efficiency, building insulation, and a less wasteful diet.


Emissions are the symptom, not the cause of the problem. India, in the UN Security Council, must push new ideas based on its civilizational and long-standing alternate values for the transition to sustainability.

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