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India's election - How will the outcome impact on international climate change negotiations?

by Kevin Blanchard, Senior Climate & Environment Policy Advisor 16. May 2014 15:08

Following on from today’s headline news that elections in the world’s largest democracy, India, have secured the BJP party a landslide victory, an important question must be asked;

How will this outcome impact on the countries view on climate change
mitigation and its role in international negotiations?

Whilst it’s difficult to gain a real sense of the decisions the new government will take in power, their manifesto offers some idea of the issues they see as key:

On energy
1.  “Take steps to increase the domestic coal exploration and production…” (p.34)
2.  “Give a thrust to renewable sources of energy…” (p.34)
On foreign policy
3.  “We will champion uniform international opinion on issues like Terrorism and Global Warming.” (p.40)

As we in the UK know well enough, manifesto pledges don’t always equate to firm policy positions once a party is in power.  However the lines quoted above leave me concerned. 

Firstly and most noticeably, the lack of concrete actions or measures.  There are no details on targets, deadline etc.  There’s also a seemingly open commitment to exploit coal reserves in the country even more aggressively.  In fact, India’s love of coal as their primary source of energy has meant that they are currently the third largest emitters of GHGs.  Even more worrying is if you consider that the economy and middle classes within India are expanding, it’s almost inevitable that any reduction in the level of emissions being produced is a long way off and overall emission level will continue to grow.  Lastly, on the issue of foreign policy they state they intend to ‘champion uniform international opinion’ on issues such as global warming and terrorism.  This phrasing is vague at best and gives no idea regarding the stance they’ll adopt at future COPs.

It should also be noted that India is one of the most outspoken countries on the international stage that supports a continuation of the developed/ developing split on climate mitigation found in the Kyoto Protocol.  In the run up to Lima this year and Paris in 2015, we need to ensure all nations (who are emitting GHGs) are ready to commit to binding emissions reduction targets regardless of their development status.  Allowing the largest emitters (USA, China, India etc) to achieve non-binding targets would be an ultimate failure and make any contributions by the EU redundant. 

Time is running out for countries such as India to make these decisions, not only for the international community but increasingly for the validity of the European stance which despite being well-established, is at risk of failure unless agreement and cooperation along EU lines (ambition, techniques etc) can be secured.

So overall and based on the scarce information within their manifesto document, it would appear that the BJP will continue a ‘business as usual’ approach to India’s role in international climate change mitigation. 

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Leaders criticised for 2020 global plan - but aren't they just being pragmatic? by 23. November 2011 15:57

Today developed nations have been accused of giving up on international climate change negotiations as world leaders admit that a future legally binding agreement will not likely be implemented until 2020, following a proposed 2016 agreement.  Whilst groups such as the Alliance of Small Island States have decried this as shutting the door on abating dangerous climate change, it must not be forgotten that in December 2012, the Kyoto Protocol will not completely die away and any progress made at international talks will have been in vain.

Yes, we may still be a long way off agreeing an international legally binding commitment on reducing GHG emissions, but so many nations do have national targets for reducing their emissions.  Indeed this was the main outcome of the talks in Copenhagen in 2009, where even the United States signed up to the ‘pledge and review’ system they put forward.  In addition the mechanisms put in place through the Kyoto Protocol will remain in place.

These leaders should not be criticised for being transparent about the state of the talks, it would be naïve to continue to believe that Durban will deliver this much needed agreement.  Instead this honesty might help to break some of the deadlock by setting out a clear roadmap (that Europe is calling for) to ensure that a fair and equitable agreement is implemented in the medium term.

In the short term, those who have already signed up to reducing their emissions will continue to do so, while negotiators should focus on agreeing something that all take part in.  This should look at a range of policy levers to reduce carbon emissions, such as carbon intensity targets, rather than the traditional cap and trade.  Carbon intensity targets have the potential to overcome the current impasse on a global agreement by not restricting growth, as many nations feel an absolute cap does.  Other potential policy levers, such as global sector agreements for certain sectors, such as steel or cement, could also deliver significant emissions reductions.

It might not the ambitious dialogue that we have heard in previous talks, but at least this is pragmatic and realistic.

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Preparing for Durban: the continuing role of manufacturing by 4. July 2011 11:00

I attended an event at Chatham House to discuss the implications for climate change negotiations and multilateral diplomacy.  HE Patricia Espinosa, the Mexican Secretary for Foreign Affairs spoke to delegates about the challenges for the next round of international climate negotiations later this year in Durban, expressing the integral role of innovative technology and low carbon economies to enable sustainable growth. 

EEF welcome this support for the role of low carbon technologies.  Manufacturing has a crucial role to play in enabling this transition to a low carbon economy and helping the UK Coalition Government to become the ‘greenest Government ever’. 

This includes not just ‘industries of the future’ but the ‘industries of the past’ Chris Huhne seems to think are on their way out.  These are the companies that supply the building blocks for low carbon technologies: such as the steel that is used in offshore wind turbines and high-speed rail tracks and the chemicals that are produced for use in insulation and energy efficient lighting.  EEF research in our 2010 report ‘Changing the Climate for Manufacturing’ shows that for every unit of greenhouse gases emitted by the global chemical industry during its operations, it has helped other to save double that amount through the products and technologies it produces.

We need to move to the low carbon economy in a cost effective manner, this means not just burdening energy intensive industries with extra costs to the point where they are uncompetitive.  This is where Ms Espinosa’s call for resurgence in multilateralism rang true to me – but in the sense that we need to think about reducing carbon emissions globally.  If the US and China and developing countries do not impose the restrictions we have in Europe, we will simply continue to outsource our production – and therefore carbon emissions – to these cheaper to produce in countries. 

In Europe we may pat ourselves on the back for our carbon reduction strategies, but until this is tackled in the round, we are simply moving the problem, and unfortunately UK innovation and jobs with it.

EEF will be keenly following the lead up to Durban and developing our position to ensure that the role manufacturing plays in enabling the move to a low carbon economy is given due credit.

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