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Sandeep Bamzai

Sandeep Bamzai is a media professional of standing and repute having held editorial leadership positions right through his 32 year career. Visiting Fellow at think tank ORF, he is currently writing a book for Harper Collins on the Role of the Indian Pri

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Disequilibrium | A Differentiated Compromise But Faultlines Remain

India has to try and achieve scaling up of renewable energy prospects from the current 12 to 29 per cent and scaling down coal usage for electricity from 61 to 57 per cent over the next decade. A herculean task with many billions of dollars required for investment.

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Whenever global negotiations of any kind have to take place, the faultines are clearly visible between the developed and developing world. This has been noticed in world trade negotiations where developing countries like India have to protect the interests of their farmers at all costs. In many ways, the birthing of BRICS - Brazil, India, China and South Africa - as a block emerged from tense deliberations where the two Ds failed to see a meeting of minds. India's position in WTO confabulations has always been predicated on securing the rights of the underprivileged in rural and agrarian India. This rump over time acme influential, but the west tried driving a wedge here too. It is a reality that India cannot ignore and has remained steadfast to that ideal over the years, even pulling out from the very brink on the high table, citing certain terms of the agreement as non negotiable. To see governments of different hues and ideologies practice this in unison in India shows why the Indian farmer remains the centrifuge of the Indian economy, given the enormous percentage of its population which is based in rural Bharat. Ditto for its stand on food security which has been uncompromising and unwavering. Developed countries constantly grouched that India was going back on its promise made at Bali in December , 2013 where it was agreed that the Trade Facilitation Agreement will be made a WTO rule by July 31, 2014, while a permanent solution to the food security issue would be found only by 2017. In fact, the next round which begins on December 15 in Nairobi will see the same chasm emerge once again as India will stick to its stated position, wanting the World Trade Organization (WTO) to take priority steps to safeguard the interests of poor farmers as well as the food security programmes in developing countries.

You can run from this reality but you cannot ignore it.

The world is claiming the Paris climate talks as a victory. The UN Climate deal despite all its frustrations, drama and heartbreak, the west believes has proven that compromise works for the planet. The Guardian reported that, "Paris produced an agreement hailed as “historic, durable and ambitious”. Developed and developing countries alike are required to limit their emissions to relatively safe levels, of 2C with an aspiration of 1.5C, with regular reviews to ensure these commitments can be increased in line with scientific advice. Finance will be provided to poor nations to help them cut emissions and cope with the effects of extreme weather. Countries affected by climate-related disasters will gain urgent aid. Like any international compromise, it is not perfect: the caps on emissions are still too loose, likely to lead to warming of 2.7 to 3C above pre-industrial levels, breaching the 2C threshold that scientists say is the limit of safety, beyond which the effects – droughts, floods, heatwaves and sea level rises – are likely to become catastrophic and irreversible. Poor countries are also concerned that the money provided to them will not be nearly enough to protect them. Not all of the agreement is legally binding, so future governments of the signatory countries could yet renege on their commitments."

Significantly, the notion of 'historical responsibility' of developed nations has been dumped from the final agreement as the deal hammered out as a compromise maintains the idea of differentiated responsibilities between the antagonists - developed and developing - where the former has to whittle down the absolute level of emissions while the latter has to ramp up its efforts at obviating the same. The term 'historical responsibility' has been erased from the pact's fine print and according to Delhi based CSE weakens the obligations of developed countries to take actions due to their past emissions. So, it is not exactly a win win and perhaps that is why compulsions to achieve a 'deal' were reworded as a compromise. Which is better than the last global shot at resolving the climate change imbroglio at Copenhagen in 2009 which went into a free fall of finger pointing leaving chaos and bitter recriminations in its wake. The fact that developed countries have in the past reneged from their commitments on financial and technology transfer is the single biggest area of concern.Will it be repeated?

Climate change and man's wanton destruction of the ecology remains uppermost as the number one challenge to mankind. Freak weather patterns, frequent earth quakes and cyclones and man's greed to fulfil his ambition pose the greatest threat to the globe's safe keeping. Indian critics of the deal like CSE have questioned the status of the compromise asking pertinent questions - Differentiation between developed and developing countries is maintained in the text in some parts, and particularly on finance, but this is weak differentiation based on capabilities and not on historic responsibilities. India's environment minister Prakash Javadekar probably summarised the compromise best when he said, "We are of the opinion that the agreement could have been more ambitious but India in a spirit of compromise agreed on a number of phrases in the pact...I hope the commitments made are fulfilled."

Fossil fuels are not going away in a hurry, this needs to be accepted by one and all. It is not like a cell phone which needs to be charged, different nations have different requirements based on availability of and proximity to these fuels. India for instance is heavily dependent on thermal energy for its power requirements. With the third largest reserves of coal, this is not going to change over time. Gas based power plants have proved to be abysmal failures as gas is a resource not easily accessible and available in India.

As India's energy dependence remains on fossil fuels, new vistas have opened up with renewable energy visibly a thrust area for the new government. A combination of solar, wind, hydro and biogas will reduce the dependence on coal over time. The sticking point in Paris also pertained to India's coal dependence which openly is anathema to the western developed world - one of the ways the impetus of the agreement could be achieved is by making global “finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate resilient development”. India has to try and achieve scaling up of renewable energy prospects from the current 12 to 29 per cent and scaling down coal usage for electricity from 61 to 57 per cent over the next decade.

A herculean task with many billions of dollars required for investment.

As part of this compromise India cannot ignore at any point in time its dependence on coal and how the west will choose to arm twist us on that score at any given opportunity. Yes renewable and green energy is the future, but it comes with bulge bracket investment, something that capital deficit cannot organise over night.


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