Efforts to establish international government consensus on actionable plans to mitigate climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions is the latest test of individual nations’ ability to establish inclusive, coordinated supranational governance. Akin to their predecessors – the WTO, GATT and others – the issues of climate change and emissions reduction has become something of a bargaining chip on the political power poker table.
As the leaders of the world’s industrialized nations hailed their agreement to cut carbon emissions in half by 2050 at the G8 Summit this week in Lake Toya, Hokkaido, they were criticized by environmental groups for not establishing hard reduction targets, baseline reference years or short- and medium-term emissions reduction goals.
Fast emerging economic powerhouses including China and India have also been critical of the industrialized nations’ proposals to establish greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets and climate change mitigation strategies and programs.
India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on June 30 released for public comment a National Action Plan on Climate Change which, prepared over the course of the past year by the Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change, aims to lay out a national climate change adaptation strategy and enhance ecological sustainability as India’s economy continues to develop, according to a Silicon India news report.
"With an economy closely tied to its natural resource base and climate-sensitive sectors such as agriculture, water and forestry, India may face a major threat because of the projected changes in climate," the Plan’s authors write.
The authors note that India has a greater range of choices than developed economies when it comes to avoiding greenhouse gas emissions and ecological degradation as its economy develops precisely because it is at an early stage of development.
Developing solar energy resources is at the forefront of India’s national action plan, which calls for setting up a solar energy and seven other national sustainable development “missions”: enhanced energy efficiency, sustainable habitat, water conservation, sustaining the Himalayan ecosystem, a "green India" tree planting program; sustainable agriculture; and building a shared knowledge platform on climate change.
The plan’s authors anticipate that energy efficiency initiatives already underway will result in a 10,000 megawatts worth of energy savings the end of 2012. To these, they propose adding four new initiatives: a market-based mechanism through which industry may trade energy savings certificates; making energy-efficient appliances more affordable; financing demand management by capturing future energy savings; and developing fiscal instruments to promote energy efficiency, according to reporting by Silicon India.
As has been the case in industrialized nations’ economic development, however, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is clearly in evidence in India’s national climate change action plan. Simply stated, people will opt for putting a chicken in their pot before believing that much larger, more abstract and complex issues such as climate change and emissions reduction.
Elected officials need to get elected and barring clear evidence rightly or wrongly attributed to climate change and greenhouse gas emissions, are prone to satisfying voters’ more basic and immediate concerns of food, shelter and providing opportunities to earn a decent livelihood.
Hence, while India in its National Action Plan promises to participate and negotiate in good faith in multilateral efforts, such as the UNFCCC, to reach accord on global emissions reduction targets and sustainable development plans, it does not include any binding commitment to reduce or avoid greenhouse gas emissions. In short, the Indian, as well as Chinese and US governments, are not willing to risk slowing down or curtailing economic growth and development in the short-term even if it means assuming the potential risks of exacerbating climate change.
India and its fast growing peers are tossing a climate change bargaining chip on the international negotiating table, however. "The success of our national efforts would be significantly enhanced provided the developed countries affirmed their responsibility for accumulated GHG emission and fulfill their commitments under the UNFCCC, to transfer additional financial resources and climate-friendly technologies to support both adaptation and mitigation in developing countries," the report states.
"India is determined that its per capita GHG emissions will at no point exceed that of developed countries." India‘s per capita GHG emissions are about 5% of that in the US and less than 10% of Europe’s, the authors note.