United States’ returns to Paris Agreement: A step forward

By KS Tomar

It was on February 19, 2021, when President Joe Biden reversed the Nov 4, 2020 decision of his predecessor Donald Trump’s to leave the climate conference. Biden rejoined it to assume the global leadership role in its commitment for climate change and protection of future generations which could face destruction and devastation, with no savior around.

Biden’s special representative John Kerry made it amply clear during the recent COP-28 conference held in Dubai that the final outcome can contribute in averting the catastrophe and worst consequences of global warming. Around 200 countries signed the Dubai Declaration, which will be meaningful and eloquent only if the developed nations come forward and financially contribute to take the entire vision forward amidst the gloomy period ahead.

Biden’s commitment is exhibited in his logical stand and strategy to make future conferences on climate as meaningful and topical to solve the climate hazards and threats which are staring at the world. His words should be interpreted in its substance and in-depth message when he says “at COP-28, the world leaders reached another historic milestone – committing for the first time, to the transition away from the fossil fuels that jeopardize our planet and our people, agreeing to triple renewable energy globally by 2030, and more. While there is still substantial work ahead of us to keep the 1.5 degree C goal within reach, today’s outcome puts us one significant step closer. But we didn’t just arrive at this inflection point.”

“Vulnerable countries have called on major economies to take urgent action. And in every corner of the world, young people are making their voices heard, demanding action from those in power. They remind us that a better, more equitable world is within our grasp. We will not let them down. The climate crisis is the existential threat of our time. But as America has always done, we will turn crisis into opportunity – creating clean energy jobs, revitalizing communities, and improving quality of life. It is our collective responsibility to build a safer, more hopeful future for our children. We can’t be complacent. We must keep going, and we will,” Biden said.

The environmentalists and climate scientists say that the outcome of recent 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference was completely juxtaposition and collocation of COP-28 as its 11,000-word document calls for transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems in equitable and orderly manner in the world which is being termed as India’s victory as compared to previous summit.

Experts appreciate U.S. Climate Envoy John Kerry’s clarion call to consider the COP-28 deal as a clear and unambiguous message to the world needs to move away from fossil fuels which has been agreed upon by even those countries which economically rely on fossil fuels. It is also significant that the fossil fuels issue was on the table for discussion and every nation is striving hard to find a long-term solution which should auger new era in the field of climate action.

Implementation is the key 

Critics have got their reservations about the COP-28 summit agreement which lacks a comprehensive account of all factors in order to achieve carbon emission targets in future. Several scientists have expressed their concern over carbon capture which is still unproven and there is an attempt to distract the attention from policies to cut fossil fuels. The doors have been left open to ensure the continuation of the fossil fuels expansion drive which may have an adverse impact on the final goal of COP-28 declaration.

Analysts opine that one of the biggest takeaways from COP-28 pertains to lack of commitment and resolve of developed nations to provide sufficient funds to most climate-venerable nations to enable them to adapt the escalating impacts of the climate crisis besides strengthening their economies to move towards renewable energy and achieve Net Zero goal by 2050.

The final draft does not take into account an earlier commitment of $100 billion per year by developed nations per year which has not been met so far. As per projected figure, developing nations will require about $6 trillion prior to 2030 and adaptation may warrant $388 billion per annum and clear energy transition will consume $4.29 trillion per year until 2030. It does not mention even the minimum level of funds requirement and it is silent on this issue whereas a commitment has been made for a meagre fund $470 million which needs to be enhanced.

India’s Green Strategy 

In view of the marathon discussion during COP-28 conference, none can deny the fact that India believes in the climate action plan which veers around the theme of displaying collaboration and camaraderie for action- oriented approach towards the healthier and greener plant.

India has urged every nation to adopt decisions of the Dubai Consensus which have got the theme of Global Stock-take and The Global Goal thereby re-emphasizing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s principle based on equity and climate justice. Experts say that India has demonstrated through its G-20 presidency to make climate action that its’ resolve is based on the principle of collective action which ensures the participation of every country.

COP-28 exhibits India’s philosophy of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ – the world is one family, and extended unequivocal support to UAE’s COP presidency, which has shown transparency, fairness and free exchange of thought amongst all participating countries.

India has already projected its resolve to become carbon-neutral by 2070 hence it does not have any plan to re-purposing of coal -based power stations before 2030. India has stressed the dire need of the accelerated efforts which are required amongst the countries towards the goal of phase-down of unabated coal power. It leaves room for India to avert an energy crisis because it permits an addition of new coal-based plants which is essential for its fast-growing economy.

Due to China and India’s pressure and weightage, the UAE Consensus document dropped references to “limiting the permitting of new and unabated coal power generation”, which is in the interest of people of both nations and will prove beneficial in the long run. But, it is a fact that India will have to depend upon fossil fuels for a longer period as compared to developed nations though more than 100 nations have pleaded for the phasing out of coal-based dependence. Experts suggest that developed nations will have to liberally contribute to the fund meant for the purpose of achieving the goal for fossil fuels otherwise it will remain as a mirage.

In this backdrop, climate experts and scientists opine that there is no option with developing nations but to switch over to new targets. It is an open secret that these nations are dictated by their energy needs and weak financial status hence oil, gas and coal are here to stay though COP-28 may show a path to understand the serious fallout leading to a climate catastrophe in future.

KS Tomar is a political analyst and senior journalist based in Shimla, India.

Disclaimer: The views expressed are not necessarily those of The South Asian Times 

Images courtesy of Bankok Post, NDTV and provided

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