Interview with Prakash Javadekar
Business & Politics ,
News - Biz@India
Minister of State for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, India
Developing World Stands United
While the developed world shows its inhibition in fulfilling its commitments towards climate change, the developing world stands united for the success of COP21. In addition, Prakash Javadekar shares key features of India’s INDC.
What is the sense you are getting from the pre-COP21 discussions?
The sense is that developing countries want Paris to succeed as they are at the receiving end of the climate change happening around. The latest report suggests that there is a rise in temperature by one-degree already. We have networked and built pressure on the developed world to provide finance and technology support as per their commitment. They must take up more ambitious emission cutting or change won’t happen. The emissions started in 1850 with the industrial revolution. At that time, its impacts were unknown. But after 1990, the developed world has not behaved responsibly in the last 25 years. Even from 2016 to 2020, how can we have five years action holiday? We want the developed world to take up ambitious targets even during the next five years.
So is the gap wider than it was before?
The French president is already saying that Paris may not succeed; it is his hunch. We want Paris to succeed. We care for the earth and the humankind. So we’ll try till the end for a just, successful and equitable agreement.
The developed world says that the situation is no longer the same as it was in 1980-90s. China and India have emerged as powerful economies. They expect us to contribute financially to their resolution.
At least they should not say that. They want to avoid the responsibility of providing USD 100 billion each year; mainly through public and additional finance. They are bringing new ideas to the table. First, they are calculating ODA (Official Development Assistance) and OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) assistance and other development assistance for climate finance. This is absolute rubbish. It is double counting and unacceptable. Second, they are saying that many countries are now rich so they should do it too. But who will decide that and how?
Voluntarily, we help our neighbours. Both China and India are doing it; everyone does that. We help Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Maldives, and other SAARC and non-SAARC countries. Those are our bilateral agreements. But they can’t become part of USD 100 billion. Also, it is too small an amount to be the bill of climate action. That is in trillions and the developed world has pledged USD 100 billion. So, we are asking them to walk the talk. Otherwise, it is irresponsible and will not be appreciated.
As COP21 summit is approaching, is it realistic to expect that the developed world will change its stance?
They will have to change the stance. People are calibrating because there is some sense to that. The developed world is trying hard to avoid, but this time we are better united. India, G77 and China, like-minded developing countries and the BASIC (Brazil, South Africa, India and China) group are all involved together. We have networked with small islands and less developed countries. We are hopeful that we will succeed.
In the past, the unity of developing countries was not strong. How sure are we this time?
Since the past one year, we have made many efforts. We hope they will stand for what they said this year. There will be efforts to divide us. We will not let that happen. After all this is by consensus and not by majority resolution. So things can’t be bullied, that’s what I can guarantee.
What according to you is the worst-case scenario for COP21?
The French president is saying that you can’t guarantee the success. If the developed world does not fulfill their commitment then there is a looming danger.
What is the Plan B if it fails?
There is always tomorrow. There are always new ideas. We are not thinking in terms of failure but in terms of positive success.
Does India have any aces in its sleeve?
Yes. The world has changed for better. Every country is taking action and has provided ten years commitment through their INDCs (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions). This is a big change, let us celebrate and welcome all INDCs and let us not complicate Paris. It is a new era of responsible behaviour. Let us make it a success.
How true are the studies suggesting that even all INDCs put together are not enough to curtail carbon?
Those calculations presuppose a static technology. It will not remain static, it will change, and it will bring out new solutions. Thereby our carbon footprint will reduce significantly in days to come. So I’m hopeful. I don’t believe in this 2.7 or 3 degrees or 3.5 degrees.
Looking at India’s INDCs, you did give a pleasant surprise to many players. What are the key features of India’s INDCs and how will they roll?
India’s INDCs are comprehensive, practical and pragmatic. We arrived at the INDCs after great deliberation within the central government and with the state governments. We involved all the sectors – private sector, agriculture sector, and forest sector. It covers not only mitigation but also adaptation, finance, technology support, capacity building, reporting and other aspects.
It has three main features. First, 35 pc reduction in emission intensity by 2030; it is a 75 pc jump over 2020 goals. This means more energy efficiency and reduction in energy intensity. Secondly, it proposes 40 pc energy mix capacity from non-fossil fuel energy. This is a 50 pc rise over earlier goals. Third, we will create 3 billion tonnes of carbon sink in afforestation. Our actions will save carbon emissions to the tune of 3.2 billion tonnes of CO2 per annum. This is a big contribution over 2005; even bigger if calculated on the backdrop of business as usual. We have progressed further from business and 2022 pledges to march towards comprehensive targets.
Our Prime Minister is passionate about climate change. He thinks that we need to act more, so he has shared three ideas before the world. First is for climate justice towards poor countries and sections of the world. Second is Lifestyle change, for we have only one planet. Mahatma Gandhi said that the earth could provide for the need of everyone but not for the greed of anyone. The unsustainable consumption pattern of western countries is definitely an issue. The Earth Organisation report that has recently come out says that such consumption will need five planets. Third is the global solar alliance that proposes that countries between the Tropics of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer, with tremendous solar energy for 300 days, must utilise it to the maximum. The International Solar Alliance (ISA) will progress during the COP21.
It is right that western lifestyle is heavily consumption oriented. But isn’t it true for urban India too?
There are two differences. I agree that when 30 pc of the population that doesn’t have an access to energy starts using energy, there will be emissions. But it will be sustainable, that’s the benefit of starting now. Second, today India has just 18 cars per 1000 people, Europe has 500-600, and USA has 800. It is a huge difference. Our per capita residential space occupied is 1/10 on all parameters. Average Indian consumes 2 pc of average American consumption. It will grow, but we have value issues attached to it. We don’t leave waste in our plate. We prefer solar drying over using the drier, even the billionaires. A child’s clothes are reused for generations. It’s not poverty but our values. Original Indian-style houses provide warmth in winter and cool in summer. The whole life approach is sustainable.
That is true of traditional Indian lifestyle. But unfortunately, the modern Indian society in Mumbai or Delhi is thriving on ACs and more cars?
No. We have 18 cars per 1000 humans and there (Europe) it is 700. It is incomparable. Air conditioning is in infancy, not even 5 pc of houses in India have ACs. We want to educate and impress upon growing middle class the value of conservation. We are the country that saves money in banks as against the west that thrives on credit. That’s a value system too.
Why is the government still giving so much importance to coal in the total energy mix of INDCs?
While growing, we will use all energy resources. The non-fossil fuel will be 40 pc but coal and gas will be 60 pc. We are not shying from that fact. Still our absolute coal consumption will be less than the developed world. America’s coal emits the same pollutants as India’s coal. We are just 20 pc, or in absolute terms only 40 pc of what the USA is using today.
Is India willing to make any more concessions to make COP21 succeed?
These are not concessions. We are putting our diplomacy to aggressive use. We are into serious action; it is not about compromising. We have already presented comprehensive INDCs.
So the pressure to give more won’t budge India?
There is no pressure on India. Now we have created pressure on the developed world.