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Explained: Why India Refused to Sign the Climate & Health Declaration at COP28

Why did India abstain from signing the declaration on climate and health at the COP28 in UAE? The Quint explains.

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For the first time in at least 28 years of United Nations-led climate discussions, on 3 December, the intersection between health and climate was given limelight amid global dignitaries.

As many as 124 countries came together and signed the ‘Declaration on Climate and Health’

But India refused to sign the COP28 Declaration on Climate and Health.

India also did not participate in the first-ever 'Health Day' organised at the summit, as a precursor to the adoption of the declaration. 

Why did India abstain from this? The Quint explains. 

Explained: Why India Refused to Sign the Climate & Health Declaration at COP28

  1. 1. What Does The Declaration Say?

    The declaration, adopted on Sunday, calls for nations to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in the health sector “swiftly, sustainably, and substantially,” flagging concern over climate change’s negative impact on global health. 

    The declaration also says that reductions in greenhouse gas emissions should be accompanied by “transitions, lower air pollution, active mobility, and shifts to sustainable healthy diets.”

    The declaration, among other things, also goes on to suggest:

    • Avoid depending on coal power

    • Drive rapid de-carbonisation

    • Reduce waste generated in the health sector

    • Implement better procurement standards for supply chains and health systems

    • Develop healthcare systems that are capable of dealing with “climate-related health impacts”

    Expand
  2. 2. Why Did India Refrain From Signing?

    India said that it’s not practical for the country to curb greenhouse gases for cooling in the health sector, as vaccines, drugs, etc, require cold storage rooms, news wire PTI reported on Sunday.

    India also said that it is refraining from signing the declaration because it's not possible to fulfil the terms of the declaration in a short time period. 

    Leena Nandan, Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forests, was quoted by The Hindu as saying,

    “We need cold storages for storing vaccines and medicines and these are linked to making our healthcare systems resilient. However, suggestions that using these are contributing to climate emissions and that we must choose some fuels over the other are not acceptable.”

    India has historically contributed to less than four percent of the carbon and greenhouse gas emissions, and, as a developing nation, has a moral high ground when it comes to using resources like coal to provide for its population.

    Kavin Kumar Kandaswamy, CEO of ProClime, a unified service provider in the climate space, who is currently at COP28, tells The Quint:

    “As a developing nation, the unique challenge that India is facing is working towards its development needs while transitioning on a large scale towards the renewable energy opportunity at the same time."

    He goes on to add, "Being the health exporter of the world, for us decarbonising the health sector would mean hitting upon the economic opportunity coming out of it.”

    Aravindan Srinivasan, Director, Thematic Collaborations at AVPN, a network of social impact investors, agrees with Kandaswamy.

    He explains, “In Asia, where countries face the dual challenges of coping with frequent extreme weather events due to climate change and striving towards universal health coverage, the decisions surrounding climate agreements are particularly nuanced.”

    Expand
  3. 3. Are There Any Limitations Or Concerns Raised?

    When it comes to the limitations of the declaration, it is not a legally binding document and just a voluntary adoption for the countries. 

    What’s also raising eyebrows among climate and health experts is that while the declaration calls for cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions and de-carbonisation, it doesn’t mention anything about fossil fuels.

    It’s noteworthy that India isn’t the only country to have abstained from signing the declaration. Among the big leagues, the United States of America also refrained from committing to this. 

    But, according to Telegraph India, senior World Health Organization officials are still engaging with India in relation to the declaration.

    Maria Neira, director of the WHO’s public health and environment department, was quoted by the newspaper as saying, “India is an important partner, a vast country with a huge population; also, a country with big technologies…. I am sure we can find a way.”

    Jessica Beagley, Policy Lead at the Global Climate and Health Alliance, told media houses:

    “The decision not to support a political document at this level on the impacts of climate change and human health, and the opportunities of climate action for wellbeing, sends a concerning message regarding consideration of the health of people in India and globally.”

    So what does this mean for India? Experts emphasise that as India abstains from committing to this declaration, it’s not coming out of an ignorance of how closely climate change and health are related. Kandaswamy says,

    “The way forward would be to strike a balance between scaling development and at the same time ensuring that there is a mass rollout of quality programs that reduce pollution and enhance the transition towards clean & green energy. This is a developing country from the Global South taking the call to write its own timelines.”

    (With inputs from The Hindu, PTI, and Telegraph India)

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

What Does The Declaration Say?

The declaration, adopted on Sunday, calls for nations to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in the health sector “swiftly, sustainably, and substantially,” flagging concern over climate change’s negative impact on global health. 

The declaration also says that reductions in greenhouse gas emissions should be accompanied by “transitions, lower air pollution, active mobility, and shifts to sustainable healthy diets.”

The declaration, among other things, also goes on to suggest:

  • Avoid depending on coal power

  • Drive rapid de-carbonisation

  • Reduce waste generated in the health sector

  • Implement better procurement standards for supply chains and health systems

  • Develop healthcare systems that are capable of dealing with “climate-related health impacts”

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Why Did India Refrain From Signing?

India said that it’s not practical for the country to curb greenhouse gases for cooling in the health sector, as vaccines, drugs, etc, require cold storage rooms, news wire PTI reported on Sunday.

India also said that it is refraining from signing the declaration because it's not possible to fulfil the terms of the declaration in a short time period. 

Leena Nandan, Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forests, was quoted by The Hindu as saying,

“We need cold storages for storing vaccines and medicines and these are linked to making our healthcare systems resilient. However, suggestions that using these are contributing to climate emissions and that we must choose some fuels over the other are not acceptable.”

India has historically contributed to less than four percent of the carbon and greenhouse gas emissions, and, as a developing nation, has a moral high ground when it comes to using resources like coal to provide for its population.

Kavin Kumar Kandaswamy, CEO of ProClime, a unified service provider in the climate space, who is currently at COP28, tells The Quint:

“As a developing nation, the unique challenge that India is facing is working towards its development needs while transitioning on a large scale towards the renewable energy opportunity at the same time."

He goes on to add, "Being the health exporter of the world, for us decarbonising the health sector would mean hitting upon the economic opportunity coming out of it.”

Aravindan Srinivasan, Director, Thematic Collaborations at AVPN, a network of social impact investors, agrees with Kandaswamy.

He explains, “In Asia, where countries face the dual challenges of coping with frequent extreme weather events due to climate change and striving towards universal health coverage, the decisions surrounding climate agreements are particularly nuanced.”

0

Are There Any Limitations Or Concerns Raised?

When it comes to the limitations of the declaration, it is not a legally binding document and just a voluntary adoption for the countries. 

What’s also raising eyebrows among climate and health experts is that while the declaration calls for cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions and de-carbonisation, it doesn’t mention anything about fossil fuels.

It’s noteworthy that India isn’t the only country to have abstained from signing the declaration. Among the big leagues, the United States of America also refrained from committing to this. 

But, according to Telegraph India, senior World Health Organization officials are still engaging with India in relation to the declaration.

Maria Neira, director of the WHO’s public health and environment department, was quoted by the newspaper as saying, “India is an important partner, a vast country with a huge population; also, a country with big technologies…. I am sure we can find a way.”

Jessica Beagley, Policy Lead at the Global Climate and Health Alliance, told media houses:

“The decision not to support a political document at this level on the impacts of climate change and human health, and the opportunities of climate action for wellbeing, sends a concerning message regarding consideration of the health of people in India and globally.”

So what does this mean for India? Experts emphasise that as India abstains from committing to this declaration, it’s not coming out of an ignorance of how closely climate change and health are related. Kandaswamy says,

“The way forward would be to strike a balance between scaling development and at the same time ensuring that there is a mass rollout of quality programs that reduce pollution and enhance the transition towards clean & green energy. This is a developing country from the Global South taking the call to write its own timelines.”

(With inputs from The Hindu, PTI, and Telegraph India)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Read Latest News and Breaking News at The Quint, browse for more from climate-change

Topics:  Health   WHO   India  

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