26 October 2009

Climate Action: India Looks Inwards and East

By: Kaavya Nag

While multilateral agreements such as the ones through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) are the ideal solutions for global action on climate change, a ‘Grand Unification Theory’ on climate action that all countries agree to, is a hard ask for now.
While it is becoming increasingly clear that 192 counties are finding it rather difficult to come to a common consensus (political or legal) on climate change, there can be no excuses for inaction ‘until such time. ..’.
While India is committed to engaging ‘fully and meaningfully’ in the multilateral process, this ‘emergent’ has been stretching its wings on internal action, bilateral deals and regional cooperation – all in the short span of one month.
 India has also played host to a high-level conference on technology development and transfer – in an attempt to provide some serious international impetus to technology transfer to developing countries. This was Part 2 of the Beijing high-level conference on technology and climate change held last year.
Andar Ki Baath: Action at home awaits the release of the much talked about solar mission  - 14th November 2009  – it will provide massive impetus to installed solar capacity, nearly 20 massive gigawatts of it by 2020. To ramp up internal knowledge and information on climate change, India launched the National Network of Climate Change Assessment (INNCCA), along the lines of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In the pipeline is climate monitoring though ISRO and talk of implicit mitigation targets and a renewable energy law.
Bhai-Bhai: On bilateral deals India has signed an MoU with Norway, largely focusing on boosting Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) contracts in India. A US-India meet is coming up in November, with PM Singh expected to discuss climate change mitigation among a range of bilateral and multilateral issues.  
Nevertheless, one major MoU on which several details are out is the one between India and China. The two sides have agreed to a five-year India-China Partnership on Combating Climate Change. Among other things, the agreement establishes the need to strengthen and exchange views and cooperation on policy action for adaptation and mitigation, technology development, demonstration projects for emission reductions, and cooperation on capacity building.

Regional Cooperation:
Just over is the ASEAN leaders meeting, with a joint statement on climate change emphasizing common concerns on the impact on the economy and the environment, and the need to work together and with other partners closely for a successful Copenhagen climate conference.

Zooming into the sub-continent, we have the recently concluded SAARC environment ministers’ summit, with climate change and forest conservation as key focus areas. Here, ministers underlined the crucial importance of close cooperation in the run-up to COP15, and specific cooperation on adaptation, disaster rapid response measures and regional cooperation and south-south support.
This hotbed of activity undoubtedly points to the fact that the pressure to act on climate change is mounting, and that heads of state are feeling the heat on climate change. If not, why would they be so keen to move on regional and bilateral agreements when the big multilateral agreement was showing little promise or progress? In short, the pressure has worked – maybe not to the full and desired level, but certainly enough for some action.
On another note, what does all this south-south and regional cooperation do to change global geopolitics?

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