A weak agreement saves the day

December 16, 2014 12:55 am | Updated December 04, 2021 11:29 pm IST

The ‘Twentieth Conference of the Parties’ of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change ended in Lima on December 14, as the negotiations >extended by two days beyond schedule . The Paris 2015 deadline for finalising an international agreement on climate change fuelled a sense of urgency at these talks. There was some optimism ahead of the conference, with the U.S.-China deal in November being considered a breakthrough and the European Union coming on board making serious commitments to cut emissions. But this hope soon fizzled out as rifts between ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ countries became deeper. In a familiar dialectical movement, the shift from hope to impasse eventually led to a last-minute deal, thus saving the talks from failure. The document that was finally agreed upon, calls for a commitment from all parties to an “ambitious agreement in 2015 that reflects the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities” (CDR). It “urges” developed countries to provide financial support to developing countries to meet their “ambitious mitigation” goals. The agreement urges parties to take national pledges by finalising their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) by November 2015. However, the agreement is criticised for being a “watered down” and “lacklustre plan”, leaving all political issues unresolved. But Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar told reporters, “We’ve got what we wanted.”

The ‘developing versus developed country’ schism was at the centre of the debates. In trying to dilute this binary, wealthy nations like the U.S., and those of the EU argued that emissions from developing countries are consistently rising and they need to commit to more serious emission cuts. But India accused them of watering down the CDR principle envisaged in earlier agreements. The EU strongly favoured a review process to ensure accountability for the pledges made but China immediately blocked it, on grounds of national sovereignty. India stuck to its conventional position that the developed countries should shoulder a bigger burden as they are responsible for the problem in the first place, while poverty alleviation would continue to be India’s primary concern. India may have demonstrated concern about climate change issues and rightly asserted the need to balance environment with socio-economic concerns. Yet, before it is too late, the nation has to acknowledge that its emissions are rising dangerously. Instead of always passing the burden onto others, it has to take responsibility for its actions. India has to make a pragmatically determined national pledge in Paris next year, backed by stronger domestic policies and a shift to clean, renewable energy.

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