The Hot Topic: COP25 Begins This Week. How does India fare?
Starting Monday, December 2, the COP25, UN’s climate conference, takes place in Madrid, Spain as countries across the world gather to tackle the climate crisis. The COP (Conference of Parties) is a yearly conference that brings together policy and decision makers and scientific and environmental experts.
Starting Monday, December 2, the COP25, UN’s climate conference, takes place in Madrid, Spain as countries across the world gather to tackle the climate crisis. The COP (Conference of Parties) is a yearly conference that brings together policy and decision-makers and scientific and environmental experts. It was in COP21 that the ambitious Paris Agreement was created, which Donald Trump recently began the procedure to walk out of. COP25 is important because it will signify the official transition from the Kyoto Protocol, which were the measures decided against climate change until 2020, towards the Paris Agreement, which is the way forward from 2020.
MADRID, SPAIN - DECEMBER 02: King Felipe VI of Spain and Queen Letizia of Spain receive COP25 participants at the Royal Palace on December 02, 2019 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images)
The aim for this year’s COP is to finalize the details left unresolved in the Paris Agreement. China and India emerge as key world players in any talks about climate change and there are several reasons for that: their burgeoning population, developing status, and gigantic economies make both countries very important stakeholders in any climate talks. China and India together account for 37% of the world’s population, and the consumption habits and lifestyle of this massive number of people over the next few decades could really determine which direction global climate heads towards. At the same time, both countries, but especially India, have a long and arduous path laid out ahead whereby they must eradicate poverty and develop in line with sustainable goals. And lastly, these top economies are at that precarious rank where they are important decision-makers, as well as the sufferers, in the global market.
MADRID, SPAIN - DECEMBER 02: Environment of IFEMA venue during the opening day of the UNFCCC COP25 climate conference on December 2, 2019 in Madrid, Spain. The conference brings together world leaders, climate activists, NGOs, indigenous people and others together for two weeks in an effort to focus global policy makers on concrete steps for heading off a further rise in global temperatures. (Photo by Miquel Benitez/Getty Images)
To be fair, the developed countries have an equal, if not greater, role to play here. By the principles of common but differentiated responsibilities, developed countries must commit to much more than they are at the moment as a large part of climate change has been a result of uninhibited development and industrialization by these countries. Yet China and India cannot afford to go down the same road of ‘development’- we simply don’t have the resources left on Earth for it.
So what is India doing?
Solar power is our main strength, and India has achieved the eight per cent of its clean energy target, from what is aimed at in 2022. Yet coal remains our biggest source of energy, and we have 300 environmental conflicts pending, more than anywhere else in the world. We also have one of the largest populations in the clutches of poverty, who are even more vulnerable to the climate crisis.
The Climate Action Tracker is an independent scientific analysis that tracks government action and measures it against the Paris Agreement aims. This tracker rates India as well within the goals to achieve its ‘less than two degrees rise in global temperature’ target but warns against India’s plans of building new coal-fired power plants. For perspective, the USA’s actions are rated ‘critically insufficient’, which is the worst possible rating. China and Japan are rated ‘highly insufficient’ and Canada, Australia and the EU’s actions are also rated ‘insufficient’ which means that their commitments are not ambitious enough to keep the global temperature from rising two degrees. These are useful measures because each country is defined by a different set of rules and regulations, according to their potential and state of development.
MADRID, SPAIN - DECEMBER 02: Demonstrators for the Spanish Historical Memory protest against the pro-fascist City of Madrid, Madrid's Major Jose Luis Martinez-Almeida because the Spanish Partido Popular are dismantling the memories of republican people shot in the Civil War at IFEMA venue during the opening day of the UNFCCC COP25 climate conference on December 2, 2019 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Miquel Benitez/Getty Images)
India, then, in this week’s COP25 is going to stress on the developed countries’ need to commit to climate action, and that the gaps which haven’t been fulfilled by the developed countries should not put an additional strain on developing countries. It is an important conference and does the job of putting climate change again on newspaper headlines and people’s minds. The last few months of climate strikes have already coerced greater commitments from countries towards climate action, and more such action is needed.
MADRID, SPAIN - DECEMBER 02: (L-R) The acting president of the Government of Spain, Pedro Sanchez, and the general secretary of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, give a press conference during the first day of the United Nations conference for the Climate Summit 2019 (COP25) in Ifema on December 02, 2019 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Eduardo Parra/Europa Press via Getty Images) (Photo by Europa Press News/Europa Press via Getty Images)
While individual consumption will always matter, it measures nothing against what government and policy reforms can achieve. While critical short term goals are reducing emissions and waste, long term goals need to stress on heavy lifestyle changes and the importance of education on climate change that is required at this juncture. A circular economy is the only sustainable economy if we want the planet to live longer, and our only hope to not destroy the chance of a liveable future for the next generations. The COP25 has set the stage; it is up to us to play it forward.