As the 23rd conference of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Bonn shifts into high gear, developing countries including India are focussing on the imperatives of ensuring adequate financing for mitigation and adaptation. They are moving ahead with specific instruments for loss and damage they suffer due to destructive climate-linked events. India’s progress in reducing the intensity of its greenhouse gas emissions per unit of GDP by 20-25% from 2005 levels by 2020, based on the commitment made in Copenhagen in 2009, has been positive. Early studies also suggest that it is on track to achieve the national pledge under the 2015 Paris Agreement for a 33-35% cut in emissions intensity per unit of growth from the same base year by 2030, and thus heed the 2°C warming goal. Since this performance is predicated on a growth rate of just over 7%, and the parallel target for 40% share of renewable energy by that year, the national road map is clear. What is not, however, is the impact of extreme weather events such as droughts and floods that would have a bearing on economic growth. It is in this context that the rich countries must give up their rigid approach towards the demands of low and middle income countries, and come to an early resolution on the question of financing of mitigation, adaptation and compensation. Of course, India could further raise its ambition in the use of green technologies and emissions cuts, which would give it the mantle of global climate leadership.
The climate question presents a leapfrog era for India’s development paradigm. Already, the country has chalked out an ambitious policy on renewable energy, hoping to generate 175 gigawatts of power from green sources by 2022. This has to be resolutely pursued, breaking down the barriers to wider adoption of rooftop solar energy at every level and implementing net metering systems for all categories of consumers. At the Bonn conference, a new Transport Decarbonisation Alliance has been declared. It is aimed at achieving a shift to sustainable fuels, getting cities to commit to eco-friendly mobility and delivering more walkable communities, all of which will improve the quality of urban life. This presents a good template for India, building on its existing plans to introduce electric mobility through buses first, and cars by 2030. Such measures will have a beneficial effect not just on transport choices, but on public health through pollution abatement. A national law to raise the efficiency of transport could well be the answer, which the States will readily adopt if supportive financial arrangements are built in. There is some worry that an increase in coal, oil and gas production could negate some of the gains made. The record in this sphere will naturally be evaluated against India’s Paris Agreement pledge to use a combination of incentives for clean production and levies on fuel to maintain a balance.