By Dr Gopal Krishna*
India failed to do even what a small country like Nicaragua did in the Paris Climate Conference by raising its flag questioning the autocratic change introduced in the final draft at the last moment (from ‘shall’ to ‘should’) while adopting the 12 page long Paris Agreement dated 12th December, 2015. The Agreement being a legal text required application of basic legal knowledge by India. In law schools across the globe students are taught that “shall” is “mandatory”. The drafters of legal documents are trained into the use of “shall” as it conveys “a duty to” be performed. It conveys obligation.
Had “shall” been not important 76 pages of Words and Phrases, a multi volume work of legal definitions would not have been devoted to case laws around it. The word “should” does not express a legal obligation, the word “shall” expresses a legal requirement.
Initially, Article 4.4 of the Draft Agreement read: “Developed country Parties shall continue taking the lead by undertaking economy-wide absolute emission reduction targets. Developing country Parties should continue enhancing their mitigation efforts…” This formulation aptly captured the historic responsibilities of rich countries and differentiated responsibilities of poorer countries. But disregarding the voice of a Central American country like Nicaragua which is a member of Group of 77, succumbing to the USA’s demand shall was substituted with should. India’s decision to maintain a deafening silence when the voice of a fellow member from G77 was disregarded is contrary to its stature.
India failed to comprehend that as a State it has a fundamental responsibility to preserve resources like the land, water, and air, which belongs to the future generations. Its responsibility “predates statutory law”.
What Indian environment minister, Prakash Javadekar did not disclose to the Parliament has already been admitted by Nozipho Joyce Mxakato-Diseko, chairperson of the Group of 134 developing countries (G77 and China Group). India is a member of this Group. Diseko has revealed that Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) for mitigating climate change is “a perversion of the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities” because it undermines the “legal obligation in accordance with historical responsibilities for finance” accepted under the bullying influence of USA and its allies.
It is quite outrageous that INDCs are not legally enforceable. The paragraph 52 of the Decision of CoP 21 makes a categorical declaration that Article 8 of the Paris Agreement which deals with the issue of addressing loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change “does not involve or provide a basis for any liability or compensation.”
Although such announcement sets a regressive precedent in international negotiations, given the fact Paris Agreement is not legally binding by implication, this attempt to escape liability for loss and damage appears unsuccessful. The 12 page long Paris Agreement dated 12th December, 2015 adopted by the countries that are Parties to United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which was adopted on 9th May, 1992, is an articulation of how ‘climate-inequality’ shapes the text of an international treaty supposedly aimed at climate justice and for the protection of Mother Earth.
It may be recalled that the false solution of carbon trade and off setting was introduced in the Kyoto Protocol at the behest of USA which had made it a pre-condition to sign the Protocol. Notably, after diluting the Protocol USA unsigned the Protocol. Unmindful of the fraud and corruption ridden carbon trade projects, instead of discarding this fake remedy the Paris Agreement makes way for global carbon market through Article 6 of the Agreement. It makes space for “voluntary contribution” among countries in the implementation of their emission reduction targets and “to allow for higher ambition in their mitigation and adaptation actions”.
It creates a new class of carbon assets namely, “internationally transferred mitigation outcomes” (ITMOs) for trading and “support for results- based payments to implement policy approaches”. This new mechanism of UNFCCC has been incarnated as Sustainable Development Mechanism (SDM) as main mitigation tool in place of pre-existing Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and Joint Implementation post-2020.
Industrial War against Climate System
What is charitably referred to as “dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system” in the text of the UNFCCC is in reality an act of industrial warfare against climate and its allied ecosystem whose impact has become glaring. It is quite surprising that green house gas emissions from the war industry which is reaping unprecedented profits amidst conflicts around natural resources has not been included as one of the key sources of climate crisis.
It is apparent that world governments have adopted Ostrich policy with regard to climate crisis under the influence of undemocratic economic organizations. Richer countries became prosperous and dominant due to carbon emission since 1750. Between 1850 and 2011, USA, European Union, Russian Federation, Japan and others contributed over 2/3rd of total global emissions. Notably, developed countries have been outsourcing their carbon-intensive industries to developing countries like India.
Admittedly, the estimated aggregate greenhouse gas emission levels in 2025 and 2030 resulting from INDCs do not fall within least –cost 2 degree C but rather lead to a projected level of 55 gigatons in 2030. The Decision underlines that in order to hold the increase in global average temperature to below 2 degree C above pre-industrial levels there is a need for reduction of emissions to 40 gigatons.
It is quite bizarre that while almost all the countries have stated their commitments to reduce emissions from 1990 levels, USA has decided to count its reduction in emission using 2005 as the base year. Thus, its commitment of reduction is only 14%insteadof28%ashasbeen claimed quite deceptively.
Where does India stand?
It has been estimated that India’s current per capita income is close US’s per capita income in the 1890s. Like most developed countries where coal remains unavoidable, India continues to argue that it will continue to use coal as its primary source in its energy mix. Meanwhile, in a remarkable move, the share of renewables in India has increased over 6 times between 2002 and 2015. India has also announced that it will add 175 GW of renewable energy capacity (almost equal to the total installed power generation of Germany) by 2022. This will lead to avoidance of burning over 300 million tonnes of coal.
Paris Agreement has a stark lesson for Indian Government and its INDC which promoted “Nuclear Power as a safe, environmentally benign and economically viable source to meet the increasing electricity needs of the country.” The word “nuclear” does not appear in the Agreement despite efforts by countries like India. It is high time India followed the path of those who have no nuclear power reactors and remain opposed to nuclear power.
India cannot afford to be complacent citing emissions by top polluters given the fact emissions of top 10 % of urban Indians is about 27 times the emissions of the bottom 10 % of rural India that the carbon footprint of 1 % of the India’s wealthy class is being veiled by 823 million poor class of the country. Saving climate from poisonous market interference
Paris Agreement panders to the whims and fancies of commercial czars who are obstinately commodifying and monetizing nature and interfering with climate and allied ecosystems. The natural resource dependent communities are facing unprecedented deprivation. This has created an episteme that blindly bulldozes technical and market solutions as “real” solutions. Meanwhile, World Bank Group feigned surprise on 17th December “to see the extent and detail on carbon markets” included in the Paris Agreement that paves the way for “Carbon Markets 2.0”.
A new, non-market, climate finance mechanism is needed to support the formalization and expansion of mitigation and technology transfer as a genuine solution to combat the propensity of promoting free trade in carbon at the cost of climate system. Climate talks remain relevant because fate of the communities and global order is linked to the decision by the richest countries to undergo mandatory fossil fuel de-addiction. But the Agreement fails to make top polluters liable for “dangerous anthropogenic interference” and for endangering human ecosystem which is the substratum for the existence of living beings.
In effect, despite the brave effort of a G77 country, Paris conference failed to save climate and intra-generational and inter-generational equity from the banks and markets that threaten our planet by integrating carbon pricing policies in all sectors of economy. It failed to make ratification of Doha amendment 2012 to Kyoto Protocol, 1997 developed under the UNFCCC’s charter covering 2012-2020 time span a priority.
India should have taken ethical leadership by declaring carbon trading as a fake solution and by choosing not “to pursue the reckless and environmentally harmful path to development” that the developed countries have taken so far. It should have sought early ratification of the Doha Amendment to the Protocol which is the international law till 2020. But this law has not entered into force as yet. This exposes the hollowness of the claims about
leading “nearly 200 nations to the most ambitious agreement in history to fight climate change” made by President Barack Obama in his last State of the Union address in front of the US Congress. The failure to apply “public trust doctrine” for safeguarding climate system is quite evident.
Ahead of the next conference which is planned in November 2016 in Marrakech, Morocco, India should take recourse to “long memories” to mobilize G-77 countries to put limits on ungovernable national and transnational business enterprises by adopting principles that account for the imminent danger to the very substratum of human existence.
*Public policy analyst; Director, ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA). Source: PUCL Bulletin