India Formally Joins Copenhagen Accord

Today, India agreed to join the world’s major emitters as one of the countries formally listed under the Copenhagen Accord.  India submitted voluntary domestic actions to the United Nations in January, but it remained unclear if it would join the international agreement.  India’s decision to formally join the accord is a clear and welcome indication that India is committed to a global solution to climate change. 

India’s letter of support moves the accord forward and explains the accord’s role within the existing framework:

It may be recalled that India actively participated in the discussions on the Copenhagen Accord. India stands by the contents of the Accord. Our clear understanding is that the Accord is a political document. It is not legally binding. The Accord is meant to facilitate the ongoing negotiations in the two tracks in accordance with the principles and provisions of the UNFCCC, the Kyoto Protocol and the Bali Action Plan.

The Accord was not adopted by the Conference of Parties but just taken note of. However, the Accord could have value if the areas of convergence reflected in the Accord are used to help the Parties reach agreed outcomes under the UN multilateral negotiations in the two tracks, i.e., the Ad-hoc Working Group on Long Term Cooperative Action and the Ad-hoc Working -Group on Kyoto Protocol. The Accord is only an input into the two-track negotiations. The Accord is not a new track of negotiations or a template for outcomes.

 With India’s commitment and the commitment of other major emitters, the accord could serve as a solid foundation for further negotiations on climate change. 

India played a vital role in the formation of the agreement in Copenhagen.  And, Environmental Minister Jairam Ramesh reiterated to the Indian Parliament today that India’s support of the accord was consistent with its interests.  He explained that being party to the political agreement “will strengthen our negotiating position on climate change.” 

India is elevating its engagement and leadership on climate change like never before.  It recently threw its hat in the ring to replace Yvo de Boer as the U.N.’s climate change chief.  Prime Minister Singh just nominated Indian Environmental Secretary Vijay Sharma to be the next Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. 

This is a positive sign that demonstrates that India is committed to the ongoing U.N. process to work towards global solutions for climate change and to a low carbon development path.  As one of the world’s largest emitters and fastest growing economies, India’s active participation is essential to the adoption of a global agreement.  India’s position as an emerging-economy-bridge between the developed and developing worlds makes its leadership on this challenging issue especially valuable. 

India has shown real initiative on the global stage and is backing up its elevated role with increased action domestically.  Now it’s time to focus efforts to build on the accord for further global action and implement measures to combat climate change in the United States, in India, and internationally.   

(Co-authored by Andy Gupta, NRDC Program Assistant)