India Key to a Strong Agreement in Paris Climate Negotiations

As the climate conference at Paris approaches denouement, India is one of the key actors setting the tone for the outcome. In this blog, we review India's participation at the Paris climate summit so far, and the expectations going forward.

India brings a multi-faceted narrative to the climate debate. The country has a huge role in future greenhouse gas mitigation, and at the same time has massive climate adaptation needs. With most of the country's infrastructure yet to be built, and the energy supply of the future yet to be installed, India presents perhaps the single largest opportunity for establishing a low carbon development paradigm. As India's environment minister Prakash Javadekar has stated, while India did not cause climate change, the country wants to be a part of the solution. For an effective solution, India, with the rest of the world, acknowledges that an ambitious and robust agreement in Paris is essential.

Off to a good start

In a strong show of leadership, Prime Minister Modi kicked-off India's campaign by launching the International Solar Alliance on the inaugural day of the climate conference. The Alliance, joined by over 100 solar-rich countries, can have a transformative effect in transitioning current fossil-fuel based energy consumers to cleaner, more abundant solar energy, and more crucially, provide affordable clean energy to 1.1 billion people currently living without access to electricity.

Taking responsibility for a low carbon future

India contributes about 7% of the total global greenhouse gas emissions, which breaks down to 1.7 tons of carbon emissions per person (compared to the U.S.' 17.2 tons per capita). However, in meeting basic development needs of 17.5% of the world's population, 300 million of whom currently lack access to electricity, and 800 million using solid fuels for cooking, India's absolute share of emissions will continue to increase in years to come. Acknowledging its role in curbing future emissions, India had announced a comprehensive Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) with the goal of reducing emissions intensity by 33-35% of 2005 levels by 2030, a 75% increase in ambition compared to an earlier 2020 pledge.

A key issue at the negotiations is the proposal to revisit the climate commitments every five years, referred to as "stock taking," and suitably strengthening or "ratcheting up," emission reduction efforts successively. In an interaction with the media hosted by NRDC, India's lead negotiator Mr. Susheel Kumar explained that India is comfortable with stock taking and welcomes the process, even at a five-yearly intervals, as long as it links to the next INDC cycle.

Elevating discussion on adaptation and resilience

In highlighting the need for strengthening climate resilience, India speaks for billions of people highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. These impacts are being felt already and are expected to become more severe in future. India is already withstanding the worst of climate catastrophes with a recent 100-year flood in Chennai, caused by in part due to amplification of retreating monsoon rain by record-warm seas, as explained in an analysis by NASA. In Paris today, US Secretary of State John Kerry announced the doubling of the US's adaptation aid to countries like India on the frontlines of climate change.

Earlier this year, large parts of India experienced one of the deadliest heat waves ever recorded. Taking a cue from early warning systems such as the Heat Action Plan in Ahmedabad, other leading cities in India are now taking actions to strengthen resilience to extreme weather events. NRDC's team in India have collaborated with leading cities and partners and released a City Resilience Toolkit at a side event in Paris this week. The toolkit provides a roadmap and "how-to manual" to develop urban heat preparedness plans and save lives.

The question of climate finance

India is the third largest economy in the world, and yet ranks 127th in the world, just below Nigeria and Samoa, on GDP per capita. To achieve its climate commitments, India's INDC estimates a required investment of $2.5 trillion, a significant part of which has to come from international sources including climate finance. Domestically, India has taken strong steps to mobilize funds for clean energy including establishing an innovative cess (tax) on coal, and issuing tax-free green bonds.

At the same time, India, along with other developing countries, has been insisting on a deeper commitment from developed countries in not just honoring their pledges on climate finance but also creating accountability and a review mechanism. A recent discussion paper by India's Ministry of Finance asserts that against a $100 billion a year goal, actual flow of climate finance is only $ 2.2 billion, much lower than a previous estimate by the OECD. Climate finance is turning out to be a major issue to be resolved in the final days of the Paris conference. For an in-depth discussion of climate finance at Paris, see my colleague Han Chen's recent blog.

A much shorter draft revised text for the climate pact was released today in Paris, demonstrating major progress and highlighting the remaining differences between the 196 countries to hammer out this week. India has a unique opportunity to lead the global community in taking strong action against climate change. An ambitious agreement in Paris is a critical step towards that goal.


The NRDC team in Paris has been actively tracking the negotiations and if you are just tuning in, an excellent day-by-day summary is available on my colleague Jake Schmidt's blog.

Upcoming NRDC India Event at COP21 in Paris

Global Climate Action: Perspectives on Major Energy Initiatives in China, India and the United States
Thursday,10th December at 11:30-13:00, Le Bourget, Blue Zone

Speakers: Junfeng Li (NDRC-China), Ajay Mathur (Gov. of India), Rhea Suh (NRDC), Jiaman Jin (GEI), Annapurna Vancheswaran (TERI), Sonia Medina (CIFF) and Jake Schmidt (NRDC)

Photo: Prime Minisiter Modi launches International Solar Alliance. (c) Mohammad Aatish Khan

About the Authors

Sameer Kwatra

Climate Change and Energy Policy Analyst, India Initiative

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