While communities in India, the United States and now the Philippines pay the high cost of extreme weather events caused by climate change, the U.N. climate talks in Warsaw are deadlocked. Just this month, the Philippines suffered from the impacts of Typhoon Haiyan. One of the strongest hurricanes recorded in history, Haiyan took thousands of lives and left a path of devastation across the island. In the United States, superstorms Sandy and Katrina wiped out large portions of New York and New Jersey last year, and Louisiana in 2005. The flooding in Uttarakhand also killed thousands in northern India this summer. All of these communities are still recovering. Yet, leaders continue to bicker about who should take charge on global emissions.
At the climate talks, world leaders agree that global emissions must be decreased, but no one is convinced they should be the first to act or how fast to implement actions. The U.S., India, and other world leaders should take the opportunity in Poland to develop an international climate plan, as my colleague Jake Schmidt wrote recently in LiveScience from Warsaw. Their ongoing dispute sends the message to billions of people around the world that our governments would rather debate than protect livelihoods and national economies.
Although India and other countries maintain an unproductive stance on global climate action, India has taken significant steps to fight climate change at the domestic level. For example, in 2008 India launched its National Action Plan on Climate Change, which included the National Solar Mission. The country also incorporated sustainable economic growth into its 12th Five Year Plan, as highlighted in our updated fact sheet, “India: Addressing Climate Change and Moving Toward a Low-Carbon Future.” India has likewise implemented strong policies to support the growth of solar energy markets and accelerate energy efficient buildings.
However, much more needs to be achieved on the domestic front within Indian states and at the national level. As an emerging global leader, India has the opportunity to create an international agreement at Warsaw. Negotiators from all nations must move away from divisive tactics of inaction and toward pragmatic, incremental and immediate strategies to combat climate change.
In 2009, at the U.N. Summit on Climate Change in Copenhagen, countries set specific targets for lowering their emissions before 2020. Their progress will be evaluated when these same countries meet again in Paris in 2015. Arguing in Poland today only puts nations further away from reaching their emissions goals. Countries should look ahead to Paris and step up to their commitments now.