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[Sansad TV] Need for Climate Equity

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PM Narendra Modi addressed the COP26 World Leaders’ Summit in Glasgow where he made a critical pitch for climate action and stood for the nations of the developing world.

India has been pushing for Climate Equity in terms of actions that need to be taken by the developed countries to achieve climate and energy goals.

In this regard, India has launched an online tool called the Climate Equity Monitor (CEM).

What is Climate Equity?

  • A small group of industrialised countries had burnt fossil fuels for 100 years and built-up enormous wealth.
  • This club had to decide what to do to cut emissions, and it claimed all countries were equally responsible for the problem.
  • Influential American think tanks broke the news that India, China and other developing countries were equally responsible for greenhouse gases.
  • Many nations including India rebutted this and brought in the issue of equitable access to the global commons.

About Climate Equity Monitor (CEM)

  • CEM aims to assess equity in climate action, inequalities in emissions besides energy and resource consumption across the world.
  • It tracks the performance of “Annex-I Parties” comprising developed countries under the UNFCCC based on the principles i.e. equity and the principle of Common But Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities (CBDR-RC).  
  • The performance and policies of theNon-Annex-I Parties” which comprise developing countries will be also provided for comparison.

How did the idea of Climate Equity pace up?

  • China, which in 1990, with over a quarter of the world’s population, was responsible for only 10 per cent of annual emissions, contributed 27 per cent by 2010.
  • So, the fight over atmospheric space is now real.
  • While the rich countries have not reduced emissions, the new growth countries have started emitting more and more.
  • Similar is the case with coal and extractive economies like India. The world has run out of atmospheric space and certainly of time.

Significance of CEM

[1] Comparing actions vs commitments

  • The aim of launching the tracker seems to be to provide a comparison between the words and actions of developed countries vis a vis developing countries in many contentious areas.
  • And hence take the climate fight to the developed world.

[2] Unbiased analysis of climate actions

  • Most climate impact “tracking” websites are based in developed countries and are not seen to address the concerns of developing countries like climate equity and differentiation.  
  • It helps build awareness, especially among the public of the global South, that climate action is a global collective action problem.

[3] Holds developed countries accountable

  • It intends to debunk the narrative provided by many developed countries, and global non-government organizations that focus attention continually on what developing countries must do.
  • The CEM clearly illustrates the scale of developed country overuse and provides estimates of the carbon debt and credit of different countries in a clear and straightforward manner.

[4] For distributive justice

  • The developing countries are behaving too mean to give money or technology to poor nations for transition to low-carbon growth.
  • Even climate change negotiators do not really believe this form of climate-socialism can happen.

[5] Nearing net-zero target

  • The narrative on net-zero and the aggressive push for all countries to declare target years for it ignore the scientific understanding of the problem of global warming.
  • It is not the year of net-zero that is the determining factor for global temperature rise, but the cumulative emissions till the world reaches net-zero emissions.

[6] Accounting historicity and positionality

  • Unfortunately, many other websites that track climate efforts emerge from the Global North and completely side-line the issue of historical responsibility.
  • They provide no historical context to the pledges made for the future and many of them greenwash the repeatedly delayed action of developed countries that is responsible for the climate crisis we face today.

[7] Exposing the Greenwashing by developed countries

  • Developed nations also fall short on representing the science accurately.
  • For example, the ‘effort’ of the US on climate change is often termed “adequate” despite its high historical and per capita emissions.
  • It has a record of repeated withdrawal from climate agreements, and continued dependence on fossil fuels.

Way forward

  • Climate change is a global collective action problem and cannot be solved merely by self-sacrifice. India is a part of the solution to climate change, but it is not the sole answer.
  • A very incorrect idea is often floated —that those who are likely to feel the impact of climate change the most are obliged to do more by way of cutting emissions.
  • CEM analysis and website are geared to debunking this false narrative.
  • Countries that have historically caused the maximum impact through emissions must proportionately carry the responsibility to ensure a rapid decrease in emissions. 
  • Merely proportionately dividing future responsibility of emissions is not equitable because it ignores the highly unequal history.
  • We should not forget the simple fact that developed countries have contributed to a vast majority of emissions for most of history, which triggered global warming.

Conclusion

  • In India, too often we have been looking purely inward as if the entire responsibility to address the issue of climate change was ours.
  • With the CEM, India aims to represent a perspective on climate equity from the developing world.
  • India, therefore, is right in using, and placing upon the table for conversation, the topic of justice and positionality.
  • There can be no real climate equity without considering the point of climate justice, which may have been delayed but must not be denied.
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