Negotiations at the United Nations Convention on Climate Change this week showed some resolve amongst nations to try and build consensus on protecting the environment.
While 192 countries had ratified the Kyoto Protocol in 1992, the key point of contention all these years has been fixing responsibility and accountability for rising global warming.
The Paris convention seems to be blowing a new lease of life to the decade-old debate of who should care about the environment and media reports suggest that world leaders may sign a landmark agreement during the next two weeks.
While the climate talks are important for the global economy, it is also significant for India. The world’s fastest growing major economy is also the third-largest emitter of Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) and is expected to increase its share of GHGs as it caters to the needs of a growing middle class.
Here are the key takeaways from the Paris summit:
Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his speech on the first day of the summit said the world needs to look beyond climate change and focus on climate justice which is the need of the hour.
While the developing countries should abide by the constraints, the developed world should bear the responsibility for restricting emissions, he said.
Along with French President Francois Hollande, Modi also launched a ‘Solar Alliance’ of 120 member nations to promote the use of solar energy.
Modi said the Indian government will invest an initial $30 million in setting up the alliance’s headquarters in India with a goal to raise $400 million from membership fee and international agencies.
While solar alliance is certainly a step towards clean and renewable energy, raising resources to implement its clean energy initiative remains a roadblock. The prime minister highlighted that India was at present producing 2GW of solar energy and plans to expand it to 12 GW by next year and 175 GW by 2022 which may still leave the country way short of its needs.
Although the sector is dominated by big names, the resolve by the prime minister to increase the non-fossil fuel dependence to 40 per cent and establishment of a nexus amongst member nations for innovation and research may leave some room for companies to work in the field of solar power.
Another key development was India, the US and 18 other nations pledging to commit $20 billion worth for clean energy. The 20-member countries, which account for 80 per cent of the clean energy initiatives, pledged to double their funding commitments to promote the initiatives.
A separate Breakthrough Energy Coalition, which would act as an investment platform for clean energy projects, was also launched on Monday by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
Is it enough?
With the Indian prime minister asking for developed countries to honour their financial commitments of $100 billion to the solar alliance initiative, attracting over $400 million and India committing to double its funding initiatives, the bigger question that arises is if it will be enough for India to reach its targets by 2030.
“Around $2.5 trillion will be required for meeting India’s climate change actions in 15 years to be met from domestic sources and leveraging of financial commitments made by developed countries,” Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar informed Lok Sabha on Tuesday.
With commitments of only $1 billion flowing in and the government trying to contain its finances, India may have to look for more innovative ways other than tax-free bonds to fund its clean energy initiatives worth $2.5 trillion.