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Why India shouldn’t sign on to net zero

  • IASbaba
  • October 27, 2021
  • 0
UPSC Articles
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ENVIRONMENT/ INTERNATIONAL

  • GS-2: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests 
  • GS-3: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation 

Why India shouldn’t sign on to net zero

Context: The top three emitters of the world — China, the U.S. and the European Union — even after taking account of their net zero commitments and their enhanced emission reduction commitments for 2030, will emit more than 500 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide before net zero.

With these committed emissions, there is no hope of “keeping 1.5°C alive.” The target is dead-on-arrival. 

Why India shouldn’t sign on Net Zero?

  • Not part of any Protocols: Neither the Paris Agreement nor climate science requires that net zero be reached individually by countries by 2050. Paris accord requires only global achievement of this goal “in the second half of the century”
  • Net Zero Ignores Equity: Claims that the world “must” reach specific goals by 2030 or 2050 are the product of specific economic models for climate action. These are designed to achieve the Paris goals by the “lowest cost” methods, foregoing equity and climate justice. 
  • Against Historical Responsibility: Less than a fifth of the world has been responsible for three-fifths of all past cumulative emissions, the U.S. and the EU alone having contributed a whopping 45%. For India to declare net zero now is to accede to the further over-appropriation of the global carbon budget by a few. 
  • India’s Commitment won’t alter much: India’s contribution to global emissions, in both stock and flow, is so disproportionately low that any sacrifice on its part can do nothing to save the world. 
  • Bad Precedence of West: The failure of the developed world to meet its pre-2020 obligations along with its refusal to acknowledge this provides little confidence for India with regard to commitments announced by West.

What India must do 

  • India’s emissions story cannot be bracketed with the top three. India is responsible for no more than 4.37% cumulative emissions of carbon dioxide since the pre-industrial era, even though it is home to more than a sixth of humanity. 
  • India’s per capita emissions are less than half the world average, less than one-eighth of the U.S.’s, and have shown no dramatic increase like China’s post 2000.
  • The allocation of property rights (Carbon Budget), without grandfathering, is essential to ensure equitable access to any global commons. The global carbon budget has been subject to no such restriction allowing the developed countries to exploit it fully, in the past and the present.

India, in enlightened self-interest, must now stake its claim to a fair share of the global carbon budget. The absence of such a claim only eases the way for the continued over-exploitation of the global commons by a few.

  • Such a claim by India provides it greater, and much-needed long-term options. It enables the responsible use of coal, oil and gas, to develop, eradicate poverty, hunger and malnutrition for good. 
  • Even if India were to enhance its short-term Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement, it should do so while staking a claim to its share of the global commons. 

Connecting the dots:

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