× Close

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 

45% consumers purchase financial products online according to our survey. Here’s why

How one of the last bastions of offline transactions is rapidly moving online.

With flight bookings, shopping and buying movie tickets all moving online, it was only a matter of time before purchasing financial products followed suit. In fact, with greater safety, better user interfaces, simpler processes and of course, busier lives, many Indians are opting to buy financial products like insurance and bank deposits online and on-the-go rather than at a bank branch.

We conducted a survey among 150 consumers in 4 metro cities (Mumbai, New Delhi, Bangalore and Ahmedabad) and 2 tier-II cities (Indore and Bhopal) to understand the financial products Indians are buying online and their needs.

The market for financial products still has huge potential for growth with 29% respondents reporting that they owned no financial instruments. Insurance is without a doubt the most widely owned financial instrument for Indians. Nearly half the sample—45% of the respondents—reported investing in insurance. Apart from that, around 27% invested in bank deposits like Fixed and Recurring Deposits and only 13% opted for mutual funds, 13% bought stocks, and just 10% took home loans. While many people still consume financial products only at their bank branches, a large number have started seeking financial information and buying financial instruments online.

The shifting tide

We found that 45% of the survey respondents bought financial products online, indicating that a large chunk of Indians is trusting the internet to manage something as sensitive as their financial investments. It is clear that Indians value the distinct advantages of transacting online. Convenience is an integral part of the experience—60% of those who bought financial products online felt that convenience played an important role in choosing to purchase online. Multiple aspects of convenience resonate with buyers—over 40% felt that the availability of 24/7 services and the ease of comparing different products from drove them to buy online.

However, findings also reveal some concerns that even tech-savvy Indians have with the online medium.

Security is king

Understandably, security is a key factor for buyers of financial products. Even among the 45% who purchased financial products online, almost half felt that the lack of security prevented them from buying more financial products online. Tellingly, the most commonly bought financial product online is general insurance. It has to be bought (in the case of travel) or renewed (in the case of car insurance) regularly and quickly, which is easier done online. It also doesn’t require the submission of too many personal documents—another­ factor reported by many as a barrier to online purchase of financial products.

To overcome these security concerns, many companies are taking concrete steps to improve the online security of their portals. They are setting up SSL security systems that encrypt and protect the user’s data and payments and are educating customers on how to recognize online payment scams. Thus, people are slowly moving towards buying high involvement financial items like life insurance as well online.

The human factor

Research is a crucial part of the buying process, and most buyers seek information from multiple sources. While research for several consumer products like electronics and furniture has moved online even if purchase is offline, financial products have been slower to move, especially due to the need for expertise. From the sample, 55% rated talking to financial consultants and advisors as very important. Similarly, 55% rated advice from friends and family as very important.

As is evident, while the world is going online, there is something to be said for the familiarity and comfort of human interaction. Even online buyers value non-digital channels of communication. Of those who bought financial products online, 25% felt that visiting bank branches was important, 30% felt that recommendations from friends and family was important, and 33% felt that discussing it with financial advisors was important.

However, we find that online forums and aggregators are also gaining in terms of people using them to research products. According to a BCG report, search queries on life and health insurance have grown 4.5 times from 2008 to 2013, showing that digital is certainly influencing the research part of the buying cycle. Many life insurance companies and banks have caught on to this trend and are finding ways of making customer service executives available online through chat facilities on their portals. Additionally, companies are also investing in a better online user experience by designing their websites to be simple, attractive and easy-to-understand, so that the process of purchase becomes easier for customers.

When it comes to buying insurance, finding an appropriate plan is not an easy process. Life insurance companies are using technology and algorithms to overcome these human biases with innovative products like life insurance calculators. An example of this is the HDFC Life insurance profiler which simplifies the process of choosing an insurance plan. A person can enter five to six parameters and get an objective opinion on the best insurance plan suited to his or her time and status in life.

HDFC Life Insurance has also taken detailed note of its customers’ requirements as they move towards the digital age. Its product website has been designed to ensure consumers feel secure and well attended to when transacting online. All payment gateways have SSL security and are ISO 27001 certified to ensure optimum security. Additionally, to facilitate easy query resolution, it offers an online chat function along with co-browsing where a user can give control of her or her system to the chat executive so that details can be filled in for them. To solve for the barrier of document submission, HDFC Life even allows users to submit documents through e-mail or upload files on Google drive in place of hard copies. Easy e-KYC facilities allow for the Aadhar card and address proof to be uploaded online to quickly verify identity. To find the right insurance plan for yourself and experience the innovative services that the organization has to proffer head to their insurance profiler to start your journey towards buying a life insurance plan.


This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of HDFC Life and not by the Scroll editorial team.

× Close