Two can play that game
Earlier this week, delegates at the UN’s climate conference COP27 at Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt arrived at an agreement to establish a loss and damage (L&D) fund to compensate the most vulnerable nations from climate-linked disasters. The two-week long event had secured a symbolic victory, thanks to this announcement. The development was seen as an act of first world nations beginning to acknowledge their culpability in contributing the most to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Other important concerns regarding who will manage this fund, and if contributions are expected from large emerging economies like India and China, and determining the fair share of contribution from advanced economies have been handed over to a transitional committee that will offer suggestions on the adoption of the fund.
The L&D fund is a salient call to action that emerged from this year’s talks. The phrase loss and damage refers to costs already being incurred on account of climate change-led weather extremes, including rising sea levels. Climate funding so far has concentrated mainly on cutting down on CO2 emissions, while 30% of it has gone towards helping populations mitigate such changes. As per experts, the funding could cover costs from damage that nations could not avoid (through mitigation, such as cutting down on GHG emissions) or adapt to (via practices to protect against the impact of climate change). The need for this fund has been underscored by a report compiled by 55 vulnerable nations that have estimated their combined climate-linked losses in the last two decades to about $525 bn or roughly 20% of their collective GDP. This figure could shoot up to $580 bn annually by 2030.
It can be argued that developed nations contributed to the bulk of climate change with their excessive emissions. But it might be a tall order to make them admit guilt, and even more challenging to get them to commit to reparations considering their poor track record with the old promise of setting aside $100 bn for developing nations annually by 2020, as part of helping them move to renewable sources of energy.
The global commitment to end reliance on fossil fuels such as coal showed some progress. Decisions were made to phase down coal and phase out subsidies for inefficient fossil fuels. However, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has pushed up the price of gas and other petroleum products, and slowed down the speed of transitioning to renewables in the immediate future. Immediate investments to the tune of $4-6 trillion are required for transitioning into a low-carbon economy.
During this year’s negotiations, the European Union had even asked developing nations to begin contributing to the fund, considering they are large emitters, which has already set the stage for heated arguments in future conferences, which will bear witness to the gradual rollout of this fund, that could take a few years to grow functional.
India has set a target of reducing intensity of emissions by 45% by 2030, while using 2005 as the baseline year. We will need to develop a negotiating strategy on fossil fuels and renewables (comprising solar, green hydrogen and nuclear power) that benefits citizens within and beyond our borders. The release of India’s Long term Low Emission Development Strategy is a step in the right direction. India also must help the stakeholders develop a feasible global funding mechanism. Having said that, owning up to one’s responsibility and working on remedial measures must go hand in hand. It’s a job that India cannot do alone – its allies in the global north and south must also play ball.