In his opening speech at COP 26 in Glasgow, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced bold climate goals for India, along with a net-zero target for 2070. He also took the stage to speak for all developing countries and asked for one trillion dollars under climate finance to help achieve these goals.
The Quint spoke to Mr Harjeet Singh who is a senior climate expert in South Asia and a senior advisor on climate impacts wih Climate Action Network International to understand what do the ongoing discussions mean so far, for India and other developing countries.
"On finance, there is a major disappointment, because even before the COP, the target of 100 billion dollars a year that rich countries were supposed to fulfil, they have failed to do so."Harjeet Singh, senior advisor: climate impacts, Climate Action Network International
In his speech at Glasgow, PM Modi had emphasised on the need for climate finance for India and all developing countries to fulfil their responsibilities towards the Paris agreement and work on their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).
"The main challenge at this COP has been so many statements recognizing the need to act now. But they are not backed with the kind of decisions that we need to take inside the conference rooms, that will enable that kind of urgent action."Harjeet Singh, senior advisor: climate impacts, Climate Action Network International
What are the developments on the promise of climate finance so far?
Harjeet Singh: On finance, there is a major disappointment, because even before the COP, the target of 100 billion dollars a year that rich countries were supposed to fulfil, they have failed to do so. And they are still falling short of $20 billion.
But we all know even the $80 billion that they are claiming to provide is just full of loans and guarantees. It is not public finance, which is much needed to mobilize trillions. Because climate action doesn't require billions but trillions of dollars every year if you want to make that transformation.
What should be the role of developed countries in global climate action?
Harjeet Singh: We all know, the climate crisis that we are facing is the result of industrialization that has happened over the last 150 years, and it is the rich countries that industrialised first and exploited these natural resources.
And that's the prime reason we are facing a climate crisis. Emissions in newly industrialized nations like India and China are increasing only now. And since climate works on a lag system, the current crisis is because of the emissions of the past.
That's why rich countries are responsible for taking a lead in reducing their emissions but also providing financing to the developing countries so they can reduce their emissions and adopt a greener pathway and adapt to climate impacts.
How do India's announcements at COP stand vis a vis the need for global climate action?
Harjeet Singh: What India did at the beginning of the conference was to come up with targets which are for 2030. This is extremely important because if we follow what the science says, we have to talk about near term targets, we have to half our emissions by 2030.
So that way, India has taken a bold step in announcing those targets. And there was a lot of pressure on India to also agree on a net-zero target. So what India has done—because a majority of rich countries have 2050 as a target to become net-zero, and China 2060—so India has set 2070 as a target. But it's not net-zero, that is important.
Is the developed world ready to deliver on its promise of $130 trillion as climate finance?
Harjeet Singh: We have seen on the outside, some grand announcements that we are going to mobilize $130 trillion for the kind of action that is required to make the transition to cleaner energy.
But in reality, when we look at what's happening inside conference rooms, even the 100 billion dollars have not been secured. So these grand announcements do not make any impact on the ground unless there is a responsibility and accountability fixed for developed countries to provide the money to developing countries and that we don't see happening.
And for developing countries, it is so difficult to have so much of a development deficit who have to still build schools and hospitals and infrastructure. Pushing them unreasonably to adopt a greener pathway without providing any finance is absolutely unfair.
What should be the important focus areas under climate action?
Harjeet Singh: We have reached the point where not only mitigation or preparing for the disasters, which we call adaptation are important. But we have reached a point where we are already facing climate impacts. That's what we call loss and damage in these negotiations. And it is really important for us now to put emphasis on all three—mitigation, adaptation and dealing with loss and damage.
And these climate impacts that communities are suffering right now, they don't have any support from the international system from this UN Climate Change system. And that's exactly what we're advocating for that you have to create a financing stream that should help people on the ground. So there's a lot of talk about finance now at least.
But there is no discussion on how to make that money available. Because people are losing their homes now. They're losing their incomes now. So the support has to be provided urgently to these companies.
What does India need to ensure to be able to achieve its targets for climate action?
This COP should give a very strong indication that we are on track to stay below 1.5 degrees. And that can only happen if we agree to near term targets. If we agree to relook at our targets every year, and not in five years, because we just don't have time. If we are looking at 2030 as a target, every year we have to review where we are and how much do we have to ratchet up.
Second, it's not going to happen unless money is put on the table. You cannot unreasonably just keep pushing developing countries without offering them the support that they need to make that transition.
And third, and probably the most important, you cannot leave poor people on their own who are facing climate impacts now.