Thursday, June 24, 2021

US Pull Out From Paris Agreement A Matter Of Concern

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The United States’ decision to officially withdraw from the landmark 2015 Paris Climate Agreement is a matter of grave concern to the world, and also to the US itself. The withdrawal process began with the Trump administration formally notifying the United Nations last Monday. It will take effect one year after delivery of the notification.

The announcement comes just about a month ahead of the UN climate COP25 talks to be held in Madrid, Spain, from December 2 to 13. Chile was to host the meeting in Santiago, but withdrew due to domestic civil unrest.

The Paris accord was signed by nearly 200 countries in 2015.  It aims to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions enough to keep temperatures from rising to dangerous levels. Its goal is to keep the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius.  The US decision could seriously put at risk the world’s objective.

The US is now the only country to pull out of the pact. It is the world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gases–behind only China. It had pledged to reduce national greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent by 2025. With the US exiting, the pact will now cover only about 80 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, down from 97 percent previously.

But the biggest impact may be on the financial flows to enable climate actions. The US plays a prominent role in mobilising financial resources globally. The Trump administration has also stopped all contributions to the Green Climate Fund (GCF), the main mechanism to provide finance to developing countries for climate action.

Consequently, the global attention will turn to India, China and other growing sources of greenhouse gases. These countries will be expected to do more to reduce emissions.  They would have to make up the gap in terms of both finance and technology for developing countries, besides taking domestic actions to reduce emissions.

India is making strong progress toward its Paris commitments. India has announced that it will achieve most of the Conference of the Parties (COP 21) climate change goals set for 2030 in the next one and half years.  At the COP21 in Paris, India made four commitments.

India is also one of the few countries on track to meet two of its key Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC)—40 percent of non-fossil fuel installed power capacity and 33 to 35 percent emissions reductions over 2005 in 2030. It is likely to achieve these goals sooner and go beyond them by 2030.  India is acting vigorously, including installing renewables, particularly solar energy, at a fast pace. The solar energy sector has enormous potential for foreign investments. It will boost the ‘Make in India’ initiative.

While much more is needed, India’s commitments are one of the few that are compatible with the 2 degree Celsius emissions trajectory scenario.

Though the US withdrawal may not directly impact India, it will affect the future climate policies. India being a vulnerable country to climate change, it has a tough task ahead. It may also have some repercussions on the country’s development projects.

India has emerged as a global leader in renewable energy. It is investing more in them than on fossil fuels. India has also said that it will finalise its long term plan strategies that will result in lower levels of carbon dioxide and other green house gas emissions by 2020. It proposes climate change mitigation through sustainable forest management. The draft National Forest Policy 2018 aims to bring a minimum one-third of India’s total geographical area under forest cover through scientific interventions and strict rules.

India needs to build on international initiatives it has spearheaded, such as the International Solar Alliance (ISA) with France, to address climate change.  India has a long way to go to meet its ambitious goals; but it is progressing steadily on clean energy future.

Script:  K V Venkatasubramanian, Senior Journalist

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