By choosing October 2, birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, for the ratification of Paris COP21, India has paved the way for its growing stature in global politics as a country which stands for ensuring sustainable development, mitigating repercussion associated with climate change as well as commitment to harness clean energy. The ratification of the Paris climate pact this month demonstrates India’s commitment to ensuring an equitable and sustainable world order based on harmony with ecology. Though India is an energy-deficient country and on the verge of massive economic modernisation, it is trying to meet the energy demands through diversification of sources, focusing more on renewable energy which can mitigate climate change to a great extent in the long run.
Moreover, by choosing October 2, birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, for the ratification of Paris COP21, India has added another feather in its cap in successful pursuance of its external policy in the multilateral body. It is historic in the sense that it paved the way for India’s growing stature in global politics as a country which stands for ensuring sustainable development, mitigating repercussion associated with climate change as well as commitment to harness clean energy. The treaty will come into force on November 4, 2016. Till now 55 states have already ratified the treaty. The central question that requires further elaboration is that how the ratification of Paris agreement will benefit the country both in short-run as well as in the long run. Secondly, whether, the ratification of Paris COP21 will help India to meet its energy security needs.
Article 2 Clause (a) of the Paris COP21 envisaged that “efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels” will limit the negative impact of global climate changes to a significant extent. Over the years, New Delhi is arguing the fact that it does not have a problem in cutting down the level of emission to 1.5°C if other emitters agree to the same. This target is very difficult to achieve. This is due to the fact that the Energy Information Administration Report of 2016 states that our economy is predominantly depending on coal which constitutes around 44 per cent of total energy basket.
The report adds that in order to ensure an equitable growth, India is relying substantially on conventional sources of energy in which coal is one of the important components. However, studies demonstrate that coal emits high concentration of methane in the atmosphere and put adverse impact on climate change. To address these issues, the Indian Government in recent years is taking proactive measures aiming at limiting the adverse effects on climate due to coal by focusing more on “clean coal”. Understanding the significance of “clean coal”, the Government of India has launched an ambitious project of introducing “super-critical technology” in the coal sector which to a substantial extent reduce emission and help our country to achieve the targeted emission level as envisaged in the Paris COP21. In addition to the pursuance of the policy of “clean coal”, New Delhi is prioritising the renewable energy sector. From nowhere till 2010, solar energy is becoming one of the mainstays of renewable energy in India. As reported by the Press Information Bureau (PIB), the Government has set the target to tap the solar energy of around 1,00,000 MW by 2022. India is giving a new momentum to the need to harness solar energy by envisaging “International Solar Alliance”. In addition to solar energy, the Government is planning to tap the potentials in the wind and hydro-electricity.
Some of these measures will significantly boost India’s energy security and at the same time meet the emission target as specified in the Paris COP21. Being an energy-deficient country over the years, India is mulling to use nuclear energy to meet its domestic energy requirement. As per the data given by World Nuclear Association web portal, around 21 power plants are operational and aim to produce 63 GW by 2032. This will significantly enhance self-reliance in the energy sector. However, what handicaps India’s quest for civil-nuclear technology is that despite being a “responsible” nuclear power, India was consistently denied entry into the elite Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). In recent years, despite receiving support from other members of NSG, China due to its own “geopolitical anxiety” is obstructing India’s entry into the NSG.
One may recall here that Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his address to the G-20 Summit held at Brisbane in 2014 called for diversification of energy sources by stating that “nuclear energy can still be a safe, reliable and clean source of energy”. Earlier against the backdrop of the NSG Seoul Summit in June, India made a candid statement regarding its entry into the NSG and with regards to the question of ratification of the Paris agreement. As the Ministry of External Affairs in its press release highlighted that “An early positive decision by the NSG would have allowed us to move forward on the Paris agreement”. Though India is yet to get a membership in the NSG, still the ratification of Paris COP21 can be considered as “historic” in the sense that it demonstrated county’s shared commitment to sustainable and equitable world order.
By ratifying the Paris COP21, India de-constructed the pessimistic view emanating from various quarters that India will not do the same. This gathered momentum when both the US and China, the largest emitters, ratified the same, prior to New Delhi’s ratification. One may recall here that though India ratified the Paris COP21 recently, in an informal manner, India took steps to reduce carbon emission much before. This fact was acknowledged by a report titled Emission Gap Report published in 2014 by UNEP. Quoting various sources, the report lauded India’s role in minimising greenhouse emission. India’s effort to tackle carbon emission can be considered as a bold step, despite the fact that the economy is growing at a faster rate and there is a surge of urbanisation processes when the country demands huge energy.
At the external front, India is also able to mend fences with its arch rival, i.e. China in international forum especially on the question of climate change. Both the countries are able to forge consensus on issues relating to “historical and differentiated responsibility”. Even during the recently concluded G-20 Summit at Hangzhou (China), there was a growing convergence between both the countries with regard to climate change and environment. When India ratified the Paris Agreement China in fact welcomed India’s move. This is happening despite the fact that China’s dubious role in supporting Pakistan as well as its repeated incursion into India’s territory. Similarly, America also welcomed India’s move to join the agreement despite the fact that on several issues both the countries are at loggerheads with each other. One issue which requires closer attention is the question of ‘differentiated responsibilities’. The ratification provided India a momentous opportunity to bargain effectively with the so-called developed world for the sustainable development of the ‘global commons’ which is rooted in India’s ancient philosophy based on harmony between ecology and development.