Opinion

We'll always have Paris, but India's next action on climate change is what really matters

Going forward, India needs to take an active and collaborative role to position itself as an agenda setter.

We’ll always have Paris: the closing lines from the film Casablanca have made a comeback after the historic climate deal signed by countries in December. Paris has undoubtedly given the world a fighting chance of averting the worst effects of climate change. But now that the euphoria of Paris is behind us, it's time to take stock as 2016 begins with new challenges. Where does India stand, how should it position itself going forward?

India’s performance at Paris has been analysed threadbare. Reactions have ranged from enthusiastic plaudits to scathing criticism. The truth, as always, lies somewhere in between.

Building on an effort that began at the Copenhagen climate conference in 2009, India managed to signal at Paris that while it did not contribute to the problem, it would actively contribute to the solution. It ceded a bit of ground as some tenets of its negotiating position were buried (for example, the recognition of “historical responsibility” of developed countries) and others were diluted (the much touted “climate justice” concept merely finds a passing reference). But by taking some active steps like championing the International Solar Alliance with hosts France and ultimately going with the larger consensus, India came out looking generally positive.

Now what?

So where does India go from here? It is clear that over the next few years, the country will come under increasing pressure to do more as its emissions grow and the tag of “third largest emitter” begins to show.

India will have a clear choice. One approach is to continue to harp on its traditional self-righteous line of highlighting its low historical and per capita emissions and defending its “right to development” (perceived by others as the "right to pollute"). The other option is to take a more proactive and collaborative role.

The second approach has clear advantages as it would allow India to position itself as an “agenda setter”, shaping the collective journey ahead in a way that advances its interests, and demanding more action from developed countries from a position of strength.

So what can India do if it chooses a proactive approach? Here are some concrete ideas:

India must take ownership of some key global initiatives. The newly formed International Solar Alliance is a great opportunity. Jointly conceiving the initiative with France, India must now follow it up with vigour and ensure that it amounts to something big, bold and actionable, with clear concrete achievements to showcase every year.

India must also demonstrate its leadership by contributing to international finance and technology flows, even though it is not required to do so by the Paris Agreement. India could, for example, launch a South-South Climate Technology Fund to alleviate the cost of intellectual property associated with transfer of climate-friendly technologies.

In one stroke, this would signal India’s intent to help less advanced developing countries, and also create some momentum on the intractable issue of intellectual property in broader climate negotiations. Such a bold initiative is particularly important if India is to cultivate the support of smaller, organised developing country blocs such as the Least Developed Countries, Small Island Developing States, and the Africa bloc. These are all key actors in the climate negotiations, and expect more from India as a leader among developing countries.

Getting its act together

In addition, India must show leadership in shaping key open areas of the negotiating agenda. An interesting outcome of Paris is that while the notion of “differentiation” between developed and developing countries has been preserved, the binary classification of countries into Annex 1 (essentially industrialised countries who were to take responsibility) and Non Annex 1 countries (developing countries) has been buried.

This is just as good – the binary classification, set in 1992, had become anachronistic, with rich countries like Saudi Arabia and Singapore being classified in the same category South Sudan and Suriname. India has an opportunity to take the lead on the differentiation question. New Delhi could, for example, put forward a proposal on what differentiation could look like in a post-Paris world.

India could also champion, what some including Nobel laureate Michael Spence have called the “Graduation Approach” – countries taking on increasing levels of responsibility as they become richer (for example, as their per capita incomes rise). Such an approach would be both fair and equitable, and also help India as its low per capita income will buy it some more time in terms of taking on more formal mitigation commitments.

Underpinning all this must be a conscious effort to beef up India’s core climate change negotiations team. India’s current bench strength is weak – a small team in the Union environment ministry, with an ad hoc supporting cast.

This is the equivalent of having just Virat Kohli and a couple of all-rounders as full-time players in the Indian cricket team, with the rest of the squad being pieced together weeks before the World Cup.

Having personally seen countries like the US, China, Brazil, and even smaller players like Singapore parading large specialist delegations at climate talks, I am convinced that India needs a massive upgrade here.

Without a full-time team of specialist negotiators, economists, lawyers, climate scientists, energy and forestry experts, and communications professionals, India simply cannot expect to pull its weight in climate negotiations, especially over the critical next few years when the broad principles of Paris will be converted to substantive actions.

We might “always have Paris”, but if we want Paris to be a harbinger of India’s interests, a "proactive beyond Paris" approach is what is required.

Varad Pande is Associate Partner at Dalberg and was an advisor to the Minister of Environment & Forests from 2009-2011 and a member of India’s climate negotiations team at summits in Copenhagen and Cancun.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BULLETIN BY 

Eleven ways Indian college life teaches you not to waste anything

College, they say, prepares you for life. Sometimes in the most unexpected ways.

Our quintessentially Indian ability to make the most of every resource has weathered us through many a storm in life. But this talent, as it were, is developed and honed to a fine art only in college. Frugality is a prominent feature of college life—more by circumstances than by choice and perhaps the most important skill we learn is nearly 100% efficiency when it comes to making the most of resources or opportunities. This “no wastage” policy is learned through many ways in college.

Academics
When it comes to studying, the art of “no wastage” is refined in college.

1. Exam papers. We’ve all been there before: you’re in the flow and trying to pen answers quickly in your answer sheet but you’re running out of space. What do you do? Fill up your existing one, of course. Write in tiny handwriting and occupy every bit of space without wasting the margin either. A great example of how college teaches you to waste nothing.

2. Photocopier bulk deals. In college, after you convince a kind-hearted classmate to let you copy their notes, you negotiate a bulk rate discount with the photocopier uncle and share the wealth with your classmates. It saves you time, money and the collective shame of failing together.

3. Stationery. Pencils are worn till they reach a stub. Broken rulers are used as long as you can still draw a straight line on them. Pens are borrowed and reused until their ink is sucked dry. Stationary is rarely wasted in the life of a college goer.

Food
Food occupies a special part of a college goer’s life and there is only one rule when it comes to food: don’t waste any.

4. Thalis. College kids are always hungry, and there are few options that provide better value for money than thalis. Thalis come in all sorts—the Gujarati kind on copper plates, the south Indian variety on palm leaves, or even the Punjabi “mini thali” found in restaurants all over the country. No matter what form they take, no food goes waste.

5. Shaadis. Speaking of food, you never say no to a wedding invitation when you’re in college. An invitation missed is a buffet meal wasted. The only price is to put on a half-decent looking dress or a pant and shirt that have been pressed. Then enter the hall, say your hi-hellos, and onto the food. No opportunity to attend shaadis is wasted during college, and rightly so.

6. 50p toffees. Those were heady times when things had the decency to cost nine rupees fifty paise instead of a full ten. The remaining 50 paise left over as change would not go waste either, and would return more often than not in the form of a chewy toffee or mint.

7. One-by-two coffee. Because coffee shared is friendship enhanced. In college, a full cup of canteen coffee was always cheaper than two half cups, and nearly impossible to finish owing to its milky sweetness. Converting it into a one-by-two courtesy an extra white styrofoam cup ensured that neither the extra coffee went to waste, nor a chance to make a friend happy.

Travel
Space is to be shared, not hogged. Every seat in college be it on the bench or a bike or a rickshaw would be occupied till its last inch.

8. Triple seat scooter rides. College-goers of a certain vintage remember that scooters were made to accommodate more people than cars. One person riding, another in the back, and at least one if not two people sandwiched between them. While this ensures no wastage of space, it’s not to be tried by the faint-hearted.

9. Share autos. The cheapest way to travel, of course. Share autos are a lifeline for college goers. Load up your friends in an auto, share the fare, and end up with more money in your wallet.

10. RAC tickets. Among the great innovations of the Indian Railways is the RAC or Reservation Against Cancellation ticket, which ensures that travelers can travel on the train even if they do not get a full berth to themselves. More often than not, two travelers split a seat. A boon to college students who don’t mind roughing it a little to get to their destination on time.

Freebies
College teaches you many things. The ability to not waste freebies is prominent on the list.

11. Buy one, get one free. The five little words that every college student wants to hear. Be it movie tickets, rock concert tickets, clothes, books or meals, a “one-on-one free” offer would always be utilized even if you didn’t need what the offer was selling. An unwritten if long-standing rule in college.

The fine art of “no wastage” is learned painstaking through college. But it’s good to know that you can enjoy “no wastage” after you’ve left too. Airtel’s MyPlan ensures that customers make the most of their mobile expenditure and waste nothing. Airtel’s MyPlan allows you to pick data, local, SMS, STD and roaming according to your needs. You also have the flexibility of changing your plan whenever you want and can optimize your phone bills to save up to 30%. Not just that, under the plan, you can also share the benefits with their family. For more information, see here.

This article was produced on behalf of Airtel by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff.

×

PrevNext