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India Joins Paris Agreement To Combat Climate Change On Gandhi's Birth Anniversary

"Gandhiji believed in a world worthy of our children."

02/10/2016 9:24 PM IST | Updated 03/10/2016 11:15 AM IST
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NEW DELHI -- India, the fourth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, formally joined the Paris Agreement to combat climate change on Sunday, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. Earlier today, India deposited the instrument of ratification at the United Nations, which also observes 2 October as the International Day of Non-Violence.

"The government of India has demonstrated global leadership and vision by joining the Paris agreement on climate change," U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement. "This historic step will further India's sustainable path to growth and development."

All the 191 signatories of the Paris Agreement have to work towards limiting global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, while chasing the more ambitious target of 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Global temperature rise of over 2 degrees Celsius would have catastrophic consequences including a rise in extreme weather events, floods and droughts, food shortages from changing climate patterns, conflicts and climate refugees as vast tracts of land are lost to rising sea levels.

China and the United States, the world's biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, ratified the Paris Agreement in September. According to the U.N, 62 countries, representing 51.89 percent of global emissions, have joined the pact, which will come into force only after 55 percent of global emissions are covered. That target would be reached after the European Union ratifies the treaty, this week.

The hard-fought agreement reached at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Paris, last year, is certainly historic, but there are serious concerns about its level of ambition. Civil society groups have pointed out that developed countries need to do more to reduce CO2 emissions as well providing funding and technology for developing countries to pursue cleaner growth.

"India now has a vital role to play in ensuring that its hard-won inclusion of climate justice in the Agreement becomes a key outcome and not just an empty phrase," Harjeet Singh, ActionAid's Global Lead on Climate Change, said in a statement. "In the next round of UN talks in Morocco this November, it must make sure that the next steps that will be negotiated really do reflect fairness and equitable action for all," he said.

So far, the combined CO2 emissions reduction targets will limit temperature rise to 2.7 degrees Celsius.

Around 40 billion tonnes of CO2 has been emitted into the atmosphere. The largest emitters are China at 28 percent, U.S. at 14 percent, EU at 10 percent and India at seven percent (with the highest growth rate of 5.1 percent), according to the 2014 Global Carbon Report.

But India produces 1.9 tonnes of emissions per person, compared with 16.4 tonnes per person in the U.S., 7.2 tonnes in China and 6.8 tonnes in the EU.

"India had led from front to ensure the inclusion of climate justice and sustainable lifestyles in the Paris Agreement . We will put across this view based on Gandhian lifestyle in Morocco," said Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave. "People in developed countries live extravagant lifestyles with high carbon footprint."

At the conference in Paris, India said that it would put its best foot forward to combat the global crisis, but it would have to prioritise growth and development in order to bring millions out of poverty, and provide electricity to vast tracts of the country which still don't have power.

While India's plans to scale up its coal production to 1.5 billion metric coal by 2020, which will make it second only to China in coal production, New Delhi has also promised to produce 40 percent of electric power from non-fossil fuel based energy by 2030.

The Paris agreement allows parties to set their own national action plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and to take other steps like investing in newer technologies for green growth. Goals for reducing CO2 emissions, which are "targets" for developed countries and "efforts" for developing nations, will also have to be scaled up subsequently.

India's action plan includes reducing the emissions intensity of its GDP by 33-35 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels, and producing 40 percent of electric power from non-fossil fuel based energy. Parties to the agreement will have to inform the international community about their progress every five year.

On the finance front, developed countries are required to provide funding, but there is no specific mention of the $100 billion every year from 2020, promised in 2009. For the first time, developing countries are also "encouraged" to provide money on a voluntary basis to less well-off nations.

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