Editorial Notes

[Editorial Notes] Inequitable climate proposal for India

India must unanimously reiterate its long-standing commitment to an equitable response to the challenge of climate change.
By IASToppers
September 18, 2020


  • Introduction
  • What is climate proposal?
  • Why should India reject climate proposal?
  • India’s track record
  • What is developed world’s strategy?
  • What are the reasons for the pressure on developing nations?
  • What will be the consequences if India ceases all coal investment?
  • Conclusion

Inequitable climate proposal for India

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Recently, the UN Secretary General’s call for India to give up coal immediately and reduce emissions by 45% by 2030 (on a par with the developed countries) is a call to de-industrialise the country and abandon the population to a permanent low-development trap.

What is climate proposal?

  • In a move in climate diplomacy, secretary called on India to make no new investment in coal after 2020.
  • It was in reality a deliberate setting aside of the foundational principles of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that distinguish between the responsibilities and commitments of developed countries vis-à-vis those of developing countries.

Why should India reject climate proposal?

  • The UNFCCC itself has reported that between 1990 and 2017, the developed nations excluding Russia and east Europe, have reduced their annual emissions by only 1.3%. 
  • India with the lowest per capita income among the G-20, is undergoing the worst economic contraction currently, whose long-term impact is still very unclear.
  • It was an unmistakable ratcheting up of pressure on India in the climate arena.
  • Developed countries of Europe and North America’s phasing out of coal has obscured the reality of its continued dependence on oil and natural gas, both equally fossil fuels, with no timeline for their phase-out.
  • While it is amply clear that their commitments into the future set the world on a path for almost 3°C warming, they have diverted attention and the passage of resolutions declaring a climate emergency that amount to little more than moral posturing.

India’s track record:

  • India’s renewable energy programme is ambitious while its energy efficiency programme is delivering, especially in the domestic consumption sector.
  • India is one of the few countries with at least 2° Celsius warming compliant climate action, and one of a much smaller list of those currently on track to fulfilling their Paris Agreement commitments.
  • Despite the accelerated economic growth of recent decades India’s annual emissions, at 0.5 tonnes per capita, are well below the global average of 1.3 tonnes, and also those of China, the United States and the European Union, the three leading emitters in absolute terms, whose per capita emissions are higher than this average.
  • In terms of cumulative emissions (which is what really counts in determining the extent of temperature increase), India’s contribution by 2017 was only 4% for a population of 1.3 billion, whereas the European Union, with a population of only 448 million, was responsible for 20%.

What is developed world’s strategy?

  • Large sections of United States and other western nations have turned to pressure the developing countries to bear the brunt of climate mitigation.
  • Their strategies include the promoting developing nation’s natural resources as active sites of mitigation and not adaptation.
  • Promoting theories of de-growth or the neglect of industrial and agricultural productivity for the pursuit of climate change mitigation.
  • These are accompanied by increasing appeals to multilateral world financial and development institutions to force this agenda on to developing countries.

What are the reasons for the pressure on developing nations?

  • A section of concerned youth in the developing countries unsensitised to global and international inequalities, have also helped promote the undifferentiated rhetoric of a climate emergency.
  • U.S. would cease all participation in the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change mitigation, and begin negotiations to re-enter the agreement on terms.
  • The EU nations for their long-term reliance on gas and oil while hiding behind their overwhelming rhetorical focus on coal.
  • EU has been promoting the agenda of carbon neutrality by 2050 as national level goals applicable to all, without any reference to global and international equity and the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities in climate action.

What will be the consequences if India ceases all coal investment?

  • Currently, 2 GW of coal-based generation is being decommissioned per year, which implies that by 2030, India will have only 184 GW of coal-based generation.
  • But meeting the 2030 electricity consumption target of 1,580 to 1,660 units per person per year, based on the continuation or a slight increase of the current decadal growth rate, will require anywhere between 650 GW to 750 GW of renewable energy.
  • Unlike the developed nations, India cannot substitute coal substantially by oil and gas and despite some wind potential, a huge part of this growth needs to come from solar.
  • None of this will really drive industry, particularly manufacturing, since renewables at best can meet residential consumption and some part of the demand from the service sector.
  • Currently, manufacturing growth powered by fossil fuel-based energy is itself a necessity, both technological and economic, for the transition to renewables.
  • Whether providing 70% to 80% of all generation capacity is possible through renewables depends critically on technology development, including improvements in the efficiency of conversion of energy from its source into electricity.
  • But since the Copenhagen Accord signaled the end of legally binding commitments to emissions reduction by the developed countries, technology development in climate change mitigation technologies has registered a significant fall.
  • Annual filing of patents shows a marked decline, ranging between 30% to 50% or more from 2009-10 to 2017, across all subsectors and across all developed countries, without exception.
  • Lacking production capacity in renewable energy technologies and their large-scale operation, deployment on this scale will expose India to increasing and severe dependence on external sources and supply chains.
  • It is a truism that renewables alongside coal will generate, directly and indirectly, far more employment than renewables alone.


As a populous country, India faces a bigger challenge in coping with the consequences of Climate Change than most other countries. India’s leadership in dealing with its own challenges of Climate Change and Energy Security will act as a spur to other countries to raise their own contributions to meeting this global and existential challenge.

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