Co-authored by Meredith Connolly and Anjali Jaiswal
The world took a huge step toward building strong climate action by finalizing a landmark climate agreement in Paris. After a marathon of over two weeks of negotiations in Paris, and years in the making, nearly 200 countries around the world agreed on a comprehensive and durable agreement that includes new targets from all countries with a focus on accountability, investment in low carbon economic growth, and transparency. The agreement puts the world on a safer path to reduce carbon pollution and curb emissions trajectory.
A touchstone feature of the Paris climate agreement is a 5-year cycle for "stocktaking" of pledges to ensure the climate action taken now becomes a floor rather than a ceiling - critical to enhancing climate action in the United States and key countries. Technology-exchange provisions and climate finance are also essential aspects to support developing countries - such as India - to transition to clean energy and provide adaptation strategies to protect vulnerable communities already experiencing the impacts of global warming. The agreement also sends a clear signal to global markets to accelerate investment in clean energy - especially solar and wind power, and energy efficiency - for more affordable energy access. My colleague Jake Schmidt further summarizes the agreement and where is it taking us here.
As NRDC President Rhea Suh, who was in Paris for the climate talks, said once the final text was agreed to:
"A great tide has turned. Finally the world stands united against the central environmental challenge of our time, committed to cutting the carbon pollution that's driving climate change. This agreement sets us on a course of verifiable gains we can build on over time. It provides real protection for people on the front lines of climate chaos. It speeds the global shift away from dirty fossil fuels and toward cleaner, smarter energy options to power our future without imperiling our world. And it sends a clear message to our children: we will not abandon you to pay the price for reckless habits that wreak havoc and ruin on our planet and lives. A crisis that took centuries to get here won't go away overnight. But climate change has met its match in the collective will of a united world. Our challenge now, in our country and all others, is to make good on the promise of Paris, by turning the action we've pledged into the progress we need."
India embraced its crucial leading role in the negotiations focusing on equity, finance, and sustainable development. "India's role here at the [conference] is often bridging the many nations across the world and also bridging development with climate action," as explained to Time Magazine. This climate agreement solidifies India's leadership and commitment to developing a clean energy economy on a low carbon growth pathway. Powering growth in a more resilient way can shift the world's emissions trajectory to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, provide millions of local, clean jobs and lift millions out of poverty.
The Paris climate agreement also reflects equity and the differences in developing countries, such as between India and China, and allows counties to continue robust economic development and provide energy access, while reducing emissons. The agreement builds on the the comprehensive climate plans that counties submitted earlier this year. India's plan for 2030, discussed here, commits to reduce its emissions intensity per unit GDP by 33 to 35 percent below 2005, get 40 percent of its power from non-fossil sources, and create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide through additional tree cover. India's targets are squarely anchored in domestic policy, motivated by national priorities of energy access, sustainable development, resilient cities, increased employment, and energy security. (Read more about the top 5 reasons India taking strong climate action here.)
As Anjali Jaiswal said at the close of the Paris climate talks:
"India played a very constructive role in helping the world unite to address the threat of climate change. The climate agreement will help accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy that is already underway in India's cities, businesses and communities.
India is motivated to take strong climate action by domestic priorities, including providing affordable clean energy access, poverty eradication, and reducing devastating pollution and climate impacts. India has cemented its climate pledge in ambitious clean energy targets, including aiming to install 100 gigawatts (GW) of solar and 60 GW of wind by 2022. In leading the International Solar Alliance, India can work with over 100 solar-rich countries to develop a clean energy economy and achieve the goals of the Paris agreement."
Highlighting India's Climate Actions
To build a low-carbon future and curb climate change, the Indian government has committed to deploy expansive solar and wind energy and adopt a suite of ambitious climate actions. In a new fact sheet released in Paris (available here) at a press release with India's lead negotiator Additional Secretary Susheel Kumar of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, NRDC and partner Council on Energy, Environment, and Water (CEEW) have reviewed and analyzed India's plan of action to address climate change in the next 15 years.
Prime Minister Modi also launched the International Solar Alliance on the first day of the Paris climate negotiations, setting a tone for collaboration and innovative approaches to solving the climate crisis. India has stepped up as a catalyst to accelerate the adoption of solar energy in 120 solar-rich countries in the world, which should further propel markets and make solar power even more affordable. The International Solar Alliance invites countries located between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn to join, including many African and Asian nations, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, France, China and the United States. India's National Institute of Solar Energy will lead the coordination of the solar alliance initiative for the first five years. Prime Minister Modi also marked India's progress, noting that India's current installed solar energy capacity of 5 gigawatts will jump to 12 gigawatts by the end of 2016.
In addition to transitioning to a low-carbon economy fueled by clean energy, countries, especially the most vulnerable, need solutions to strengthen resilience. During the climate summit, a record-breaking deluge flooded Chennai's streets and New Delhi's air was choked with toxic smog. Earlier this year, India suffered from one of the deadliest heat waves in world history, resulting in over 2,300 deaths. Climate resilience is a key part of the Paris climate agreement for India, offering an opportunity to fight poverty and increase climate justice, as NRDC colleague Susan Casey-Lefkowitz describes here.
NRDC created a City Resilience Toolkit: Response to Deadly Heat Waves and Preparing for Rising Temperatures detailing concrete measures that help protect the most vulnerable to climate impacts from increasingly deadly heat waves. After top India negotiator Dr. Ajay Mathur spoke of India's clean energy progress and need for greater resilience measures, NRDC former president Frances Beinecke and CDKN CEO Sam Bickersteth released the toolkit at an NRDC side event in Paris. This toolkit puts forth proven urban resilience solutions including a How-To Manual with a step-by-step guide to develop city early warning systems and heat preparedness plans. The materials are based on the city of Ahmedabad's pioneering "heat action plan," India's first early warning system and preparedness plan for extreme heat, as well as international experiences and best practices.
The new global agreement reached in Paris sends a strong signal to governments, markets, and key actors to accelerate the shift to a clean energy future in India and elsewhere. The agreement is a launching point for robust implementation and programs for solar and wind energy that creates jobs and drives economic growth that result in greater emissions reductions. The international agreement is critical to protecting our health, our communities and our planet from the ravages of climate change.