Climate change talks are poised at a critical stage before the Conference of Parties meets in Paris in 2015 to finalise a new treaty, and India’s alliances with developing countries assume significance at this point. Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar has been stressing on funds from the first world for the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and also on scaling up targets in the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol and its quick ratification. In line with this, >the recent BASIC (Brazil South Africa India China) ministerial meeting has once again called on the developed countries to walk the talk on funding and emission cuts, but going by past experience some advanced countries are not going to abide by this. Already Japan and Australia have scaled back their promises on emission cuts, and funds for technology transfer, adaptation and mitigation are nowhere in sight. The BASIC meet did not throw up any new thought or action plan and reiterated what the developing countries have tried to do for the last 20 years. As a pressure bloc, BASIC despite its cloak of togetherness seems a divided house, and it is perceived by some to be losing its significance in terms of climate talks. Differences in BASIC on various issues have prompted India to side more strongly with yet another group called the Like Minded Developing Countries (LMDCs), which is expected to meet soon.
While countries such as the United States are not even signatories to the Kyoto Protocol, there is a real danger that more first world nations will renege on their historical responsibility to fund capacity-building and other critical measures in the developing countries vis-à-vis climate change. Now more than ever, there is a need for India to emphasise along with other countries the need for strong commitments on emission reduction and operationalising the GCF. India has already announced a voluntary mitigation goal of reducing the emissions intensity of its GDP by 20-25 per cent over 2005 levels by 2020, but it also needs to review its commitments and, like the rest of the world, do more. The BASIC meet stressed that the 2015 outcome in Paris should be comprehensive, balanced, equitable and fair — but so far nothing has been fair in the climate negotiations. One of the BASIC countries, China, has emerged as a major emitter, and despite its emphasis on alternative energy and mitigation it still relies heavily on coal for energy. With little commitment to emission cuts or funding adaptation and technology transfer in the poorer countries, the world is moving towards a new climate treaty which seems fraught with contention already. In this light, India’s role and alliances, and its emphasis on equity and common but differentiated responsibilities, could be a game-changer.