Emission Targets | Centre for Science and Environment

Emission Targets


Last call to get climate deal right

The Indian government must not use “equity” to block climate change negotiations. It must be proactive on equity and put forward a position on how to operationalise the sharing of the carbon budget—accounting for countries’ contribution to past emissions and allocating future space—in climate talks.

I wrote this last year when the UPA government was in power. I am repeating this as the NDA government prepares for the next conference of parties (CoP) to be held in December in Peru.

Change of climate in the US

Climate change has a surprising new follower: the US president. The US government has been the biggest bugbear in climate change negotiations. Since discussions began on this issue in the early 1990s, the US has stymied all efforts for an effective and fair deal. It has blocked action by arguing that countries like China and India must first do more. Worse, successive governments have even denied that the threat from a changing climate is real, let alone urgent.

Loud and unclear

Does the Indian government’s loud voice in international negotiations produce results? At the recent WTO meet in Bali, the Indian government went all guns blazing to defend the rights of its farmers and to ensure food security for millions of poor. It opposed the Agreement on Agriculture that limits government food procurement at 10 per cent of the value of total production, based on the prices of late 1980s. It said this clause would impinge on its right to offer farmers a supportive price and to procure food stocks for its food safety programme.

Beyond Rio+20

It was June of 1992. The location was Rio de Janeiro. The occasion was the world conference on environment and development. A large number of people had come out on the streets. They were protesting the arrival of George Bush senior, the then president of the US. Just before coming to the conference, Bush had visited a local shopping centre, urging people to buy more so that the increased consumption could rescue his country from financial crisis. Protesters were angered by his statement that “the American lifestyle is not negotiable”.

The inconvenient truth

Many years ago, in a desperately poor village in Rajasthan, people decided to plant trees on the land adjoining their pond so that its catchment would be protected. But this land belonged to the revenue department and people were fined for trespass. The issue hit national headlines. The stink made the local administration uncomfortable. They then came up with a brilliant game plan—they allotted the land to a group of equally poor people. In this way the poor ended up fighting the poor. The local government got away with the deliberate murder of a water body.

Equity: the next frontier in climate talks

In 1992, when the world met to discuss an agreement on climate change, equity was a simple concept: sharing the global commons—the atmosphere in this case—equally among all. It did not provoke much anxiety, for there were no real claimants. However, this does not mean the concept was readily accepted. A small group of industrialised countries had burnt fossil fuels for 100 years and built up enormous wealth. This club had to decide what to do to cut emissions, and it claimed all countries were equally responsible for the problem. In 1991, just as the climate convention was being finalised, a report, released by an influential Washington think tank, broke the news that its analysis showed India, China and other developing countries were equally responsible for greenhouse gases. Anil Agarwal and I rebutted this and brought in the issue of equitable access to the global commons. We also showed, beyond doubt, that the industrialised countries were singularly responsible for the increased greenhouse gases.

AOSIS ultimatum to BASIC

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At an informal meeting today between BASIC and AOSIS, the AOSIS group has reportedly given an ultimatum to BASIC, saying that it will not support BASIC unless the major economies come up with some sort of ambitious mitigation targets.

Half way house: divided we fall?

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At 1 o’clock on December 3, 2011, halfway through CoP 17, the President of CoP 17 held a plenary to take stock of the work done so far. She first thanked the delegates for the “flexibility” they’d shown so far, thus “allowing work to happen”. She was pleased to inform the plenary that work on the Green Climate Fund (GCF) had progressed a lot: indeed, today was a crucial day in the GCF negotiations, such that the Chair wasn’t able to attend the ‘informal stocktaking’, as this particular briefing has been termed. She informed that after 2 rounds of informal consultations on GCF, “a number of countries are willing to accept a report”. 

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