Capturing the Carbon Space

By: Staff Reporter
While the developed countries want the developing countries to put caps on greenhouse gas emissions (GGE), the emerging economies want the advanced countries to accept deeper cuts in GGE and also provide technology transfer besides financial help for adaptation and mitigation programmes.

The Copenhagen Summit commences on the 7th of December 2009 and India is waiting with baited breath for its outcome – an outcome that brings with it the prospect of a new pact to replace the Kyoto protocol that expires in 2012. The new pact must be in place by the end of 2010 to leave 2 years for nations to ratify it before it comes into force from January 1, 2013. Representatives of 192 countries will meet in one of the most widely anticipated international conferences in Copenhagen to try and hammer out an agreement that will substantially mitigate the ill effects of global warming and climate change.

The crux of the matter is that the developed and the developing countries are at odds with each other on the issue of climate change. While the developed countries want the developing countries to put caps on greenhouse gas emissions (GGE), the emerging economies want the advanced countries to accept deeper cuts in GGE and also provide technology transfer besides financial help for adaptation and mitigation programmes. The advanced countries have so far failed on both the counts. At Copenhagen an agreement will need to be negotiated to make it legally binding for rich and developed countries to reduce GGE by specific amounts by a certain date, possibly 2020. Although the Kyoto Protocol makes it mandatory for a group of rich countries to reduce their collective emissions by 5.2 per cent from their 1990 levels by 2012, the Copenhagen meet is expected to fix bigger targets for a period beyond 2012 and till 2020.

More than 80 per cent of the accumulated GGE in atmosphere have been emitted by developed countries since they were the first to industrialise. A handful of about 30 rich countries accounts for nearly half the global emissions – with an average per capita emission more than twice the world average and at least ten times more than India. A lot of it results from wasteful and luxurious consumption of energy. According to the Bali Action Plan, every country needs to take steps to reduce its energy consumption. But unlike rich countries, they do not have to affix targets and the reduction targets are not legally binding so that such countries don’t find themselves constrained in their effort to increase economic activity and reduce poverty. Development and poverty reduction have been recognised as the primary and overriding concern for these countries and that includes India. However, rich countries, want big, emerging economies like India and China to also take targeted reductions in their rapidly growing emissions. Developing countries, on the other hand, are demanding more ambitious emission cuts from the rich countries. They are also asking for transfer of technology and money to cope with the effects of a problem that is essentially the making of rich countries.

India has made it very clear that it cannot accept binding caps on GGE even as it is prepared to cooperate with other countries to deal with climate change. India has been traditional arguing that development and poverty reduction is its primary and over-riding priority even as it shares responsibility for contributing to global efforts to contain temperature rise and climate change. It is, therefore, in no position to cap or reduce its emissions, though it is working towards slowing the growth of its emissions. Also, as reducing GGE (mitigation) is the sole responsibility of developed nations, India will take mitigation efforts only if the developed world supports it with technology transfer and finance. In fact it has already put in place the National Action Plan on Climate Change on June 30 last year. It identifies 8 core national missions to run through 2017, for promoting solar energy for power generation as compared to fossil based energy options. It envisages a goal of at least 1000 MW of solar thermal power generation. Another 10,000 MW would be saved by 2012 through the Enhanced Energy Efficiency mission. The goals include afforestation of 6 million hectares of degraded forest lands and expanding forest cover from the present 23 to 33 percent. Creation of a new Climate Science Research Fund, biodiversity, improvement in water use efficiency and sustainable agriculture will go a long way to check climate change. India also has a target of producing 4,70,000 MW of power through nuclear energy by 2050. However, these domestic actions are not open to international scrutiny.

In a recent shift in the run-up to the Copenhagen Summit, India displayed flexibility and made a series of unilateral offers. A 20-25 per cent cut in carbon intensity by 2020 over 2005 levels was announced as a ‘non-binding’ domestic target. India also agreed to tell the world about the amount of emission reductions that its domestic actions were likely to lead to by a certain year. It was not prepared to do so earlier. These numbers, however, cannot be treated as internationally binding targets. India has also offered to report its emission status to the international community more frequently than it is required to do under law. This will allow the world to track the results of India’s domestic actions.

India Facts

  • India is the fifth largest emitter of greenhouse gases, behind China, the United States, the European Union and Russia.
  • Its annual carbon dioxide emission is in the range of 1.2 to 1.4 billion tons. Its annual greenhouse gas emission (CO2 plus five other gases, including methane) is in the range of
    6 to 1.8 billion tons.
  • India’s per capita emission is about 1.2 tons per year. That’s about one fourth of the global average, about one-tenth of the emissions of developed countries and about one-third of China’s.
  • Between 1990 and 2004, India’s carbon dioxide emissions grew by about 7 per cent a year on an average.

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