India is being blamed unfairly for watering down the text of the Glasgow climate pact on coal, an unidentified official from the foreign ministry told The Indian Express on Wednesday.

The United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, which concluded last week, had decided to phase out the use of coal as a fuel. However, India and China reportedly proposed to change the text of the pact from “phase out” use of coal to “phase down”.

Alok Sharma, the president of the climate conference, had said that India and China will have to explain their decision to climate-vulnerable countries.

Environment minister Bhupender Yadav, who represented India in Glasgow, said in a blog that the use of fossil fuels had helped countries achieve high levels of growth. “Developing countries have a right to their fair share of the global carbon budget and are entitled to the responsible use of fossil fuels within this scope,” he wrote on November 14.

Amid the debate, an official from the foreign ministry claimed that India did not propose or table the phrase “phase down”, The Indian Express reported. “It [term] was already there [in circulation], we simply accepted it,” the official said.

Two other unidentified senior officials, aware of the climate talks, told the Hindustan Times that the phrase “phase out” had been suggested by small island countries.

“The initial text [of the pact] had ‘phase out’ for both coal and fossil fuel subsidies which we did not agree with,” one of the officials said. “It is our basic position in any case. But we did not introduce the phrase ‘phase down’. We had problem with the language on coal and phasing out of fossil fuel subsidies. We did not agree to that language which they kept pushing till the end.”

The official added that the term “phase down” was evolved during discussions between the United Kingdom, China, US, India and the European Union. The official added that India was asked to read out the re-worded text.

The term “phase down” was also reportedly part of a joint statement issued by US and China.

“When you look at the proceedings you will feel that this is India’s language, but we only read out the statement,” the official told the Hindustan Times. “We were trying to help achieve a consensus.”

He added: “We [India] also wanted to introduce certain safeguards and had some concerns. We did not have a strong objection to the phrase ‘phase down’ either because we were trying to find a language to ensure an outcome for COP itself.”

The official who spoke to The Indian Express said India will need some amount of coal production till 2030 to fulfil its demands.

“As far as the coal phase-out is concerned, India has not peaked yet [in coal based electricity generation],” the official said. “We cannot suddenly and completely shut down one of our major energy sectors. Of course, we are working toward transition to renewables as can be seen in the announcements made by the Prime Minister at COP.”

The official added that developed countries had shifted to using other fossil fuels like oil and gas but developing countries were still transitioning. He said that the matter of equity in climate negotiations needed discussion.

Also read:

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  2. Glasgow climate pact: An economist explains why India did not commit to coal phase out
  3. Five loopholes that the UN climate change conference has left for the fossil fuel industry