The > Paris Agreement on climate change > marks a milestone in preserving the earth’s environment and provides a floor on which to build ambition and action. It is the outcome of a long struggle by millions of citizens around the world, aided by the weight of scientific evidence linking severe, more frequent weather events such as cyclones and droughts to man-made greenhouse gas emissions. The 195 country-parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change — besides Palestine which joined in Paris — have acknowledged that global climate action can no longer be postponed. While their adoption of the Agreement has created history, the sum total of national pledges by 189 nations will be unable to stop climate change that is already happening. As the UNFCCC acknowledges, these pledges will not be able to keep temperature “well below 2 degrees C” compared to pre-industrial levels, leave alone the > aspirational target of a 1.5° C limit . It is also important to remember that there is a long window before the promises on emissions cuts go into effect in 2020, a period during which developed nations would continue to emit large volumes of greenhouse gases. Given such a background and its responsibility as a legacy polluter, the richer half of the world, which secured the support of vulnerable and poor nations in Paris, must use the Agreement to liberally share its prosperity and technology. It would be perverse if the climate pact is viewed as a business opportunity to fuel a wave of growth for a few.
The signal from Paris is clearly for a shift away from polluting fossil fuels such as coal and oil to renewable energy, and the adoption of smart policies and innovative technology. Like all other countries, > India is now required to periodically report on its targets and performance under the Agreement, and update its Nationally Determined Contributions by 2020. This will need the active involvement of all States and wide consultations — more so for the 175 gigawatt renewables revolution, including 100 GW from solar, to meet the 2022 target. The Centre should consider enacting a strong climate change law that harmonises policies nationally, beginning with energy, buildings, transport, water, agriculture and urban development. The question of adaptation to climate change and addressing loss and damage looms large for India, given the regular cycles of crippling droughts, devastating flooding and lost livelihoods. There is not much to look forward to here in the Agreement, which speaks of raising finance with $100 billion a year base by 2020, an amount that is grossly inadequate for the scale of catastrophic events witnessed worldwide. The hope is that the Paris Agreement will, as a binding covenant, spur civil society to raise the pressure on leaders to improve upon it every year, adding clear commitments for the developed nations to cut their emissions in favour of the developing countries and raise financing significantly.