Clima Active in Climate Change

The 17th G20 Summit recently concluded in Bali, Indonesia. The summit had the theme ‘Pulih Bersama, Bangkit Perkasa’ (Recover Together, Recover Stronger). With the symbolic act by Indonesia of handing over the gavel to Indian Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, India is set to act as the catalyst of change, a voice of the Global South, a protector of vulnerable economies, and most importantly, holding the developed countries accountable.

India will hold its First Sherpa Meeting on Dec. 4, 2022. Under the theme of ‘One Earth, One Family, One Future’, India has aimed to keep her ancient ethos of Vasudev Kutumbakam intact. We will unite against the tyrannies that divide us. These tyrannies range from global pandemics to global environmental catastrophes. India recently outlined its pathway to achieve the status of being a ‘Net Zero’ country by 2070. We need to remember that India has never been an Annex I country that has its origin in the Kyoto Protocol. An Annex I country has got a mandate to reduce its carbon emissions because of the historical understanding that developed countries emitted more and developing economies did not. Charting a blueprint that runs more than 100 pages, India at the recently concluded CoP 27 meeting in Egypt showcased how active the climate talks are happening here at home. India has already achieved its clean energy targets in November 2021. In its updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), India further pledged its renewable energy capacity goals to 500 GW by 2030. The number 500 GW represents 50 per cent of the installed capacity of power in India.

We never had any pressing obligations from the UNFCCC or any Climate meetings. We are a developing economy, and therefore by classical context, we have limited means. Despite the challenges that lie with us, India has rapidly advanced in its climate ambitions. From the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) that came out in 2008-09, we have leapfrogged to LiFE (Lifestyle for Environment), which was jointly released by Hon’ble PM Modi and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.  Furthermore, our emission intensity reduction target has increased from 35 per cent to 45 per cent by 2030. The emission intensity reduction does not mean we will cut out on our power demand and supply. Our power demand will be met through parallel contributions from Non-Fossil fuel-based sources. For that to happen, we have already pledged our goal to harness 500 GW from renewable energy. India’s benchmarks are higher than before, which is an attempt to set the standards in Climate Diplomacy. Developed countries like France and New Zealand have set a Net Zero Target by 2050. China being one of the top emitters has put 2060 as its dateline for Net Zero.

India’s Presidency of the G20 comes at an opportune time when we are gradually recuperating from the shadows of the global pandemic and there is a global economic meltdown. This raises India to take the leadership role to steer an accelerated action for the vulnerable economies. India’s Presidency also comes with the backdrop of looming predicaments between major Western powers, Africa’s severe drought conditions, and the supply chain issues concerning essential semiconductors. The theme for 2023 set by India rightly approaches the method of inclusivity. This inclusivity will intend to question one of the major issues that drive aspiration behind climate goals: climate finance. According to CEEW, climate finance goals are more of a ‘negotiated maximum, but delivered minimum’. India will aim to change this course of action through different finance tracks over her presidency. Our first environmental group meeting scheduled in February 2023 will take into stock three crucial aspects: India’s approach to the climate agenda for G20, the developed country’s methodology in addressing climate finance, and lastly, negotiating a Global Green Policy led by the emerging south. It is the second and third approach that renders a crucial understanding of climate diplomacy.

Climate finance needs to be considered as ‘Climate Investments’. From Paris Goals in 2015, India’s methods have changed. India delivers first, and then it sets the climate targets. Our updated NDCs in the run-up to the Glasgow meet are a testimony to that. While some of the targets have already been met, India has strived further in achieving what India defines as a necessary mission in saving the environment. The massive LED Campaign launched as UJALA (Unnat Jyoti by Affordable LEDs for all) was a program that targeted rural households. An effort was made to distribute LED bulbs at an affordable price, feasible to all. It is the effect that led to India’s path of pursuing greener policies. Not only did it reduce electricity bills, but it also improved the lifestyle and health of our rural people, woman and their children in particular. A rural school student did not have to worry about completing her assignment in dingy conditions; she had efficient electricity to help her study. We then created an integrated approach, while we distributed efficient LEDs; we multiplied it by another big initiative called Saubhagya (Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana). It became the world’s biggest universal electrification initiative. About 98 per cent of the houses have been electrified, and LPG connections all over India have increased to 70 per cent. 

Every year, our needs are almost 1.6x Earth‘s. Gandhiji rightly said that Earth can fulfil everyone’s needs, but not everyone’s greed. It is this motto that is embedded in the LiFE mission wherein our consumptive lifestyle is harmonious with that of the environment. India also makes it clear that climate change is not only a problem concerning technocrats in labs but also common people and their lifestyle with nature. In 2015, India launched International Solar Alliance, while in 2019; India launched Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure. A further integrated approach was followed by launching Infrastructure for Resilient Island States. Together, these three form a Clima Troika with a strong hope for the Global South in striving for climate justice. Establishing a platform which is salient to vulnerable economies not only provides a voice but also empowers these economies to undertake self-reliant initiatives. India has already taken the Atmanirbharta (self-reliant) approach by launching public policies like National Policy on Biofuels

With the G20 Presidency, climate finance will be defined more clearly. A clear definition will lead to accountability, which is one of the major climate policy aspirations in India. Italy’s G20 Presidency with the motto ‘People, Planet, and Prosperity’, and Indonesia’s G20 motto ‘Recover Together, Recover Stronger’ combined with India’s motto ‘One Earth, One Family, one Future’ makes a clarion call for all to take climate change as an issue of utmost priority. It is also pertinent to note that from 2022 to 2025; only emerging economies are going to take leadership roles in G20. After India, we will have Brazil in 2024, and then South Africa in 2025. It is thus an important moment to lock in the history of climate diplomacy wherein the Global South will marshal the path towards Climate Justice. India has a major role to play in driving the change that will shape the next decade. 

[Photo by Office of the President of the United States, via Wikimedia Commons]

*Sankalp Singh is a Young Professional (Independent Consultant) in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India. Views expressed are personal.

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