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India and the UN Conference on Climate Change

The 20th session of the Conference of Parties (COP20) is being hosted in Lima, Peru, from 1-12 December 2014. Environmental experts and senior diplomats from around the world gather at the UN climate talks to negotiate ways in which developed and developing countries can work together to stop global warming. Rajni Bakshi, senior Gandhi peace fellow at Gateway House, comments on India’s stand on climate change and expectations from the talks in Lima.


“At the COP20 discussions in Lima on a global climate change agreement, there is mounting pressure on India to commit to targets for when its carbon emissions will peak. This seems unfair because India’s carbon emissions per capita are among the lowest in the world at 1.7 metric tonnes. The U.S.’ emissions per capita are 17.6 metric tonnes while China’s are 6.2 metric tonnes.

The U.S-China climate change agreement announced in November 2014 is expected to act as a setback for politically powerful ‘climate deniers’ in the U.S. Congress who refuse to accept the scientific verdict that these changes are caused by industrial activity. However, the U.S.-China agreement sets the bar too low.

Indian government negotiators must raise the bar at the Lima conference. The negotiators must also hold firm on India having the flexibility to use both fossil fuels and renewable energy to lift hundreds of millions out of poverty.

India can play a key role in rallying other developing countries to push for more ambitious emission cuts by developed nations who, in per capita terms, are the biggest polluters. As the conference in Lima began, China’s foreign ministry reaffirmed its long-standing view that climate negotiations must be based on ‘differentiated responsibilities’, which means that rich countries have a greater responsibility to cut emissions.

The climate talks provide an impetus for Indian businesses to explore a voluntary shift towards technologies and business models that are not only low-carbon but have long-term profitability. There are three key opportunities for Indian businesses: the first is to expand the market for decentralised generation and use of renewable energy, the second is innovative social enterprises for eco-investments that mitigate climate change, and lastly invest in both internal and public mechanisms for disaster management.”

For more information or interview requests, please contact Reetika Joshi at joshi.reetika@gatewayhouse.in