The ratification of the Paris Agreement on climate change by the United States and China, which together account for 38 per cent of global greenhouse
gas emissions, provides much-needed momentum for the global compact to be in force beyond 2020. As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has emphasized, 26 countries have already acceded to the accord; to reach the target of 55 per cent emissions, 29 more must come on board.
For the U.S., this is a landmark departure from its long-held position of not accepting a binding treaty like the Kyoto Protocol, where emerging economies heavily reliant on fossil fuels have no firm commitments.
The Paris Agreement addressed this issue by stipulating voluntary but verifiable emissions reduction goals for all parties, within the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities that underpin the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Contrary to the belief that a requirement to cut GHGs will make economies less competitive, a major section of global industry and business has reaffirmed the potential for trillions of dollars in green investments flowing from the ratification of the Paris Agreement by the U.S. and China. This is a clear pointer for India, which is estimated to have the third highest individual country emissions as of 2014.
There are distinct low-carbon pathways that India has outlined in its national plan submitted to the UNFCCC. Among these, the scaling up of renewable energy and non-fossil fuel sources to 40 per cent of installed power production capacity by 2030 is predicated on technology transfer and the availability of Green Climate Fund resources. Not much progress has been made in this area, and Minister of State for Environment Anil Madhav Dave confirmed recently that no contribution had been received from the Fund. Helping India lock in the right technologies in its growth trajectory is important for a global reduction in greenhouse gases. It is important for the U.S. to help accelerate this process in the area of power generation, following up on the assurances given by Secretary of State John Kerry during his recent visit on clean energy finance, technology, solar catalytic funding and help for power grid upgradation. New Delhi can, in parallel, do much more on domestic policy to achieve green and low energy intensive growth – such as taxing fossil fuels, managing emissions from waste better and making low-carbon buildings mandatory. India joined other G20 countries at Hangzhou to commit itself to addressing climate change through domestic policy measures. For that to happen, the Centre must initiate a serious discussion with the States on the national imperatives.