UN Climate Meet: India Takes on Rich Countries for Greenwashing

The Paris Climate Change meet is witnessing a tough politics of funding between developed and developing countries.

5 min read
UN  Climate Meet: India Takes on  Rich Countries  for Greenwashing

In most negotiations, it helps to follow the money trail and the UN climate summit in Paris is treading this well-worn path. On the second day of global environment ministers deliberating on the text of the agreement, there is no clarity on the level of funding.

At the abortive Copenhagen summit in 2009, industrial countries led by the then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that they would provide $100 billion by 2020 to developing countries to combat climate change. With five years to go, there are only miniscule amounts pledged and even less actually paid up – around $5 billion.

Kumi Naidoo, head of Greenpeace, left, talks in front of a two-storey-high, mechanically operated polar bear called Aurora installed by his organisation’s activists into the conference venue, to represent everyone hoping in the next 72 hours during the COP21 Conference in Paris, December 9, 2015. (Photo: AP)

Pledged Funds

In Paris, Germany and France have promised to increase their 2020 funding to $4.47 billion and $4 billion, respectively, which is a far cry from the initial $10 billion a year from all rich countries promised immediately after Copenhagen, ratcheting up to $100 billion.

Most of the funds being promised by industrial countries refer to mitigating the impacts of global warming, since this affects every country on the globe. There is little or no interest in funds for “adaptation” by poor countries to a problem which wasn’t caused by them.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) released a report in Paris on the Adaptation Finance Gap, updating the position from the Lima summit last year. UNEP’s findings point to the even greater financial commitments necessary after 2020. It estimates that  adaptation costs are going to rise to about $140 billion-$300 billion per annum by 2030 and further increase to about $280 billion-$500 billion by 2050, if the globe warms by 2ᴼ C.


Impact on India

However, even by the present voluntary commitments by all nations, including China, the US and India, the world’s three biggest greenhouse gas emitters, the world is poised to increase average temperatures by 2.7ᴼ C, which underlines the enormity of the problem.

On the eve of Paris, an independent joint study by IIM Ahmedabad, IIT Gandhinagar and the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) in Delhi estimated that India would need $1 trillion from now till 2030 to cope.

As many as 800 million people living across nearly 450 districts in India are currently experiencing significant increases in temperatures beyond 2°C. According to the study, India will experience 1-1.5°C increase in temperatures in the near term from 2016 to 2045, which will adversely impact agriculture.


Cost of Climate Change Mitigation

  • Germany and France to increase their 2020 funding to $4.47 billion and $4 billion respectively, a far cry from the initial pledged amount of $10 billion a year from all rich countries
  • Few takers for the Adaptation Fund for developing countries enabling them to build their resilience against climate change
  • Recent study by IIM Ahmedabad, IIT Gandhinagar and the Council on Energy, Environment and Water in Delhi estimated that India would need $1 trillion from now till 2030 to cope
  • US leaders have sought to exclude emerging economies of BASIC countries as recipients of aid for tackling climate
  • India also flexes its muscles, a finance ministry paper questions certain aspects of climate change financing

The US’ Gameplan

In Paris, the US -- along with the umbrella group of rich countries like Canada and Australia, as well as the EU -- is trying to put a spin on what they expect by way of financial pledges. From President George W Bush Jr to Barack Obama, US leaders have sought to exclude the emerging economies of BASIC countries – Brazil, South Africa, India and China – as recipients of aid for tackling climate.

In Paris, they are referring to the “dynamic differentiation” of such countries and terms like “evolving responsibilities and capabilities”. There is even the suggestion that such countries should be contributing to the Global Climate Fund, for which the target is $100 billion by 2020.

People attend a climate conference at the U.S. pavilion during the COP21, United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, December 10, 2015. (Photo: AP)

There is admittedly the anomaly that countries like South Korea, Singapore, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and UAE do not figure among industrial countries in the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

However, they are small countries and can’t contribute, with the exception of the three oil producers, very much by way of global funding.

A woman works on her computer at the Green Climate Fund stand at the COP21, United Nations Climate Change Conference, November 30, 2015 in Paris. (Photo: AP)

Question of Climate Funding

All BASIC countries still have large populations which are poor, India leading with 300 million without access to electricity.

The top US climate negotiator, Todd Stern, who has been around since Copenhagen, referred approvingly in Paris to the report by the Organisation for Economic Development and Cooperation which asserted that rich countries have already provided $62 billion last year by way of climate funding.

In fact, he went one step further and said that with fresh commitments, the funding probably amounted to $80 billion.


Taking on Rich Countries’ Club

Indian finance ministry officials have issued a lengthy paper, hard copies of which Indian negotiators are circulating, showing that it amounts to “double-counting”, includes private sector financing and loans, amounting to “greenwashing”. Although the paper is not official, it represents India’s new-found confidence in taking on this rich countries’ club head-on.

Oxfam activists wear masks of heads of different countries as they stage a protest during the COP21, United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, December 10, 2015. (Photo: AP)

Nozipho Mxakato-Diseko, from South Africa who chairs Group 77, and China, representing the poorest 134 countries in the negotiations – a role India played at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 -- called the OECD report a “mirage” to create the illusion of a finance process on the right track.

The Least Developed Countries spokesperson also denied that loans – as distinct from grants -- could be cited by the OECD. BASIC countries have dismissed it as a red herring. Oxfam has also questioned this donor-drive methodology. In Paris, however, judging by repeated questions at press conferences from the Western media, the study is being seen as credible by some countries.

(The writer is a Mumbai-based senior journalist)

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