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Climate Change Conference: Negotiation or Marginalisation?

Prabir Purkayastha, of Delhi Science Forum and Dr. T. Jayaraman, professor at TISS, discussed the upcoming Climate Change Conference-2015 in Paris at the end of November. They said, though developed countries are the large polluters, they haven't taken any appropriate emission reduction actions even after committing to it repeatedly. As a result, the main victims are the third world countries. The impact has already been seen in the African and Asian countries. Jayaraman said, the pledges by the developed countries are very minuscule compare to the emission by the least and developing countries. The rich countries are driving the decision in the negotiations and if the equity is determined in a decontextualised manner, the life of the people in India and other third world countries would be the most affected. If the cut-down efforts are proceeding in this manner, it may not be able to achieve the target of arresting the increase in temperature to two degrees by 2030.


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Rough Transcript:

Prabir Purkayastha - Hello and welcome to Newsclick. Today we have with us Professor T. Jayaraman from Tata Institute of Social Sciences and will discuss the Climate change issues, particularly with the impending negotiations in Paris.

Jayaraman, There have been pledges now made by different countries in Paris. Looking at the ambition of those pledges, it does appear, it does not even appear half the requirement that is there for addressing urgently the climate change crisis that is emerging. So what can be expected out of Paris? Do you think we can expect an agreement which will address the issue or do you think will get at the best weak agreement?

T. Jayaraman - The situation is currently if you look at the pledges that the developed countries have made, the amount is so little that if we really want good chance of ensuring that we avoid dangerous climate change then the amount of emissions that they want to have, will exhaust the global carbon budget by 2030. By 2030, if the things goes on they are, 75% of the carbon budget which is available between now and 2100 will be exhausted by 2030. And the chief culprits in this if I must say that; India will spend, it is unlikely to consume anything more than 7 or 8% of this amount which will be spend by 2030. The bulk of it will be by the developed countries. As a consequence, they are taking the line share when in fact they should be cutting back sharply.

PP - Which means that future development of countries which have not yet started really the development cycle, a lot of them are called the LDC list (Least Developed Countries), will not really have an opportunity to develop with cheap energy. That means, they really have to spend much more capital in-order to meet the energy needs. Is that what we are looking at?

TJ - Basically yes, except what I would say you must add to that list, not only the LDCs but also India. I think if such a real percentage of safe carbon budget is exhausted by 2030, then those who develop much more slowly will have to do so as time progresses through ever more increasingly expensive pathway.

PP - Now the other issue still remains. That if exhausted by 2030, 75% of the budget, by 2040-2045, the most of the carbon budget would be actually not only finished but we will be over shooting. So what about the risk of the climate itself? Because whatever we really saying is not just exhaustion of the carbon budget but also the so called 2 degree target is not going to be met?

TJ - So I think if we are proceeding at the current rate of ambition and this persists for some time, then we are going to need so to speak a bigger carbon budget and then the probability that we will not cross 2 Degree Centigrade goes down. So it is more likely we will cross 2 Degree Centigrade. So the countries which are developing slowly and will have expensive pathways to energy sufficiency for their people will also face the brunt of heavier load of adaptation.

PP - That is the interesting point you made. Because it is also agreed that the impact of climate change is going to be felt much more in the countries in the global South and countries in the global North, Africa is already showing some signs of climate distress and also certain zones in India. So already this is on the cards. Coming back to Paris negotiations, the other issue which have also been debated, discussed and been matters of controversy is equity principle. Common but differentiated responsibility got big one aspect of it. Do you think that the equity is on the table or has it gone off the table in fact?

TJ - Equity has not entirely gone off the table but if developing countries don't have their wits about them, if they don't exert themselves, then equity in serious danger of disappearing of the table. The problem really is that while the equity or the slogan of equity has often been used in a defensive way, the developing countries still have to put forward a positive vision of view of how equity has to achieve and insufficiency of that is making their case weaker. So one hope that the proposals from the countries like Bolivia, etc for an equitable sharing of the global carbon budget. I hope that is sort of picked-up by the other developing countries. If so we have a chance of putting equity back on the table.

PP - India which was one of the strongest proponent of equity earlier seems to have muted it's voice very much with this respect. It in fact did not address the Bolivian proposals, did not encourage it either. So do you think all of this is an indication that US centric, strategic policy of the government is also playing itself out in the climate change negotiations? and this is not something which is specific to the Modi government. This is also something Vajpayee government and the Manmohan Singh government seems to have done.

TJ - See, I would say that, when it comes to climate policy, the India's position, vis-à-vis the government of India's position, vis-à-vis the United States has been somewhat at variants with it's positions on many other issue. So even though we India suppose to be a strategic partner, suppose to collaborate on defence and other issues, there is a nuclear deal, all of that not withstanding. India has been critical of the United States muted perhaps the negotiation clearly on the other side. Now, one hopes that this continues, because I think India's interest, and I think there is even for government, there is a realisation that, if you look at the sheer size and the scale of development, deficit in India, we need adequate carbon space and we need to keep temperature as well below the probability of crossing 2 degree centigrade to be limited. So that our adaptation burden is not high. So you can't quite avoid that. So I think on this issue I would say that, they are driven in slightly different way but one has to see how matters evolve at Paris.

PP - Last point. There is lot of talk of this co-benefits as an approach. Now, nothing against co-benefits. Yes, it is saving the climate, certain other benefits to the society, etc are different issue but it seems to be the global capital's argument, that we can save the climate only if we also get profits from activity of saving the climate. Do you think that is the basis of the co-benefits argument? That we must be incentivised in other ways to save the world?

TJ - I think there are three strikes against co-benefits. What is the first one? The question is not how much in terms of climate action you can afford to do. You might find out how much climate action you need to do and of course you must do it in the best possible way, the least expensive way and so on and so far. Co-benefits does not come to the problem from that direction at all. The second thing is, co-benefit, the way it is floated at the level of CTs, you deal with pollution, like you know the way in Mumbai or in Agriculture, etc. Co-benefits is a way sometime of mixing up mitigation and adaptation. So while people tell that developing countries, you are doing adaptation, you are also sneak some mitigation on to them. In principle, this is OK. But if we have a definite sealing on how much emission we are allowed, so that within that we can plan, look forward and scenario build, the least expensive pathways, within that you do co-benefits that is a different story but that is not what is happening at present. So it is trying to outflank a national government by using the genuine concern people have on both pollution and climate to sneak a little bit of mitigation on to developing countries while they are also doing adaptation. The third of course the larger issue. So you have to be persuaded, that climate action is good for you. Now, I don't see why this is a necessity in India. There may be ignorance of the climate issue, people may not be aware of all the sacristies but we do not have; it is a cross-cutting issue in parliament, that is there is no strong climate denying political force in the country. In Europe, this is a problem but much more muted. Britain, Australia, Canada and US, all have this big lobbies, where businessmen pour-in millions or a few billion dollars to campaign against the climate. So in these, rather weak need sort of response of government has been to try to persuade the sections, that there should be climate action.

PP - Last point, you were talking about the business lobby which is doing climate denial funding. Koch brothers as well as now lot of oil companies' records are there in public domain who have been doing public funding in a big way. It is also interesting that, Koch brothers also the one funding extremely right-wing politics in the United States. It is a strange mixture of climate denial and right-wing politics.

TJ - I think certainly in the US context, right-wing politics is increasingly going with their own version of the recourse to unreason. It is a hallmark of right-wing. I think everywhere they are recourse to unreason. And particular version of that in the US context, you see the very strange debate on abortion that takes place in a nation which is arguably still the scientific power house of the world. So similarly on climate. See, they have reached in agriculture a very particular situation. a peculiar situation. American farmers - and this is born out by a CPAC study of climate change impact on agriculture which I have reviewed - They are very sensitive to weather. Because lot of commercial farmers, markets, products, they have to cope with weather risks. So farmers are extremely sensitive to weather. But climate is something which does not, they do not appear to be able to see the connection.

PP- Thank you very much Jarayaraman.

DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for Newsclick are typed from a recording of the program. Newsclick cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

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