At UN Climate Summit, India flexes its negotiating muscles

BENGALURU, India (AP) – As the assembled countries in Scotland crystallized their pledges at last year’s United Nations climate conference, India used its power to intervene. Along with China, India has objected to the draft deal’s proposal to “phase out” coal, preferring a “phasing down” wording.

After much hasty discussions among the leaders, Bhupendra Yadav, India’s Minister of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, read out the final version. She said countries should work towards a “gradual reduction” of coal capacity.

The intervention was successful for the Indian government.

Now the country is expected to exert influence once again to seek its own interests at the upcoming United Nations climate conference in Egypt, known as COP27.

“India has always played a major role in the climate negotiations and I think Egypt will be the same,” said Navruz Dubash, lead author of several UN climate reports and longtime observer of climate policy and governance.

India’s leaders say the nation needs billions of dollars to enable its transition to clean energy, and will push for better financing for developing countries at the summit. India has made many of its carbon emissions targets conditional on receiving this financial assistance. With India being a climate-vulnerable and high-emitting country, experts say India occupies a unique position at the negotiating table on global climate policy.

About 80% of India’s population lives in areas highly prone to extreme disasters such as severe floods or heat waves, according to a 2021 study by the New Delhi-based Climate Research Council on Energy, Environment and Water. Meanwhile, the nation is currently the world’s third largest emitter of carbon dioxide after China and the United States, according to the latest estimates.

One of the key issues for India at COP27 will be how to finance climate change adaptation and reduce fossil fuel emissions, according to a senior Indian government official who will be involved in the negotiations. The official, from the Department of Environment, Forestry and Climate Change, responded to written questions from The Associated Press. The official’s name was not mentioned, in line with the ministry’s protocols.

India wants a pledge of $100 billion annually in climate finance for developing countriesA promise made in 2009 that has yet to be fulfilled even though two years have passed since its deadline, to be evaluated, according to the official. They added that other questions related to finance, such as what happens to climate finance in the long term, what contributions rich nations will make to poor nations, and how to bring financial flows in line with global temperature reduction goals, also need to be addressed. No other country will see a greater increase in energy demand than India in the coming years, and it is estimated that the country will need $223 billion to achieve its clean energy goals for 2030.

“India has made it abundantly clear that the historical responsibility of rich countries is to provide the necessary climate finance,” said the senior Indian government official. Historically, it was the United States and European countries that contributed the most carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere. Estimates of the cost of transitioning to clean energy and industrial practices vary globally and helping vulnerable communities to adapt, but run into the trillions of dollars.

In the run-up to COP27, India announced its new climate plan He said the country will aim to achieve half of its energy needs from non-fossil fuel-based energy sources by 2030. Currently, 42% of the country’s installed electricity capacity comes from non-fossil fuel sources.

“Investments in renewable energy, although on an upward trend, need to increase significantly. There is a financing gap. This gap needs to be filled through international public climate finance to attract renewable energy investors,” the Indian government official said. “The growing ambitions and new goals to address climate change could be in vain if adequate financial support is not provided to developing countries.”

Despite its ambitious climate plans, India is also investing in coal, at least in the short term. In the past two years alone, the Indian government has announced about $50 billion in upcoming public and private investment in coal.

Compensating poor nations from rich, highly polluted nations for the devastation caused by climate change, known as “loss and damage” in climate negotiations will be a major item on the agenda of many developing countries, including India.

According to the World Bank, 750 million people in South Asia have been affected by at least one natural disaster in the past two decades. These disasters are expected to become more frequent and severe, which could lead to massive losses and damages in the region. The non-governmental organization Germanwatch ranked India seventh among the countries most affected by severe weather in 2019, noting that the massive floods that year caused about 10 billion dollars in damage, killed 1,800 people and displaced about 1.8 million people.

“I think it is a real challenge for India to position itself” in the face of loss and damage, said Dubash, who is also a professor at the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi. “I think it will be an important moment for India to signal its loyalty to weak states,”

Long-term observers of climate diplomacy say India, like many other countries, is interfering with climate goals and boosting living standards.

“There are some groups of countries that tend to believe that all funding for fossil fuels should be stopped and should be restricted. The problem with this, among others, is that it ignores the efforts being made,” said RR Rashmi, Distinguished Fellow at the Energy Research Institute in New Delhi. To achieve the sustainable development goals made by many countries.

He added that moving away from fossil fuels “must be a state-led process. It is better to be left to them to decide which sectors should be addressed first rather than globally.”

Many observers say this year’s conference will be “in-between COPs,” as many deadlines for climate change goals have either lapsed or will not come until years later. This makes the conference “a good moment to advance issues that the developed world usually ignore, such as loss and damage, climate financing and adaptation,” said Avantika Goswami, a climate policy researcher at the Center for Science and Environment in New Delhi.

For the most part, experts say India keeps its cards close to its chest.

Dubash said India would have to balance “what the country is willing to put on the table in terms of pledges, policies and commitments” and how much it is willing to spend. “So we (India) don’t want to do something that will lock ourselves up in something costly unless there is a promise of funding.”

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