By: Chandrashekar Bhat
EXPERTS have come in support of India after several nations criticised the south Asian country for using the term “phase down” instead of “phase out” of coal at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.
They said India’s stand should not be seen as a diversion from its commitment to global climate action.
Almost 200 nations at the climate summit in Glasgow accepted a compromise deal on Saturday (13), aimed at keeping the key global warming target alive, but it contained a last-minute change that watered-down crucial language about coal.
Several countries, including small island states, said they were deeply disappointed by the change promoted by India to “phase down”, rather than “phase out” coal power, the single biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions.
However, media reports said China pressed for a softening of the language in the final negotiations, although it was India’s environment minister Bhupender Yadav who read out a new version of the Glasgow pact that used the watered-down commitment.
In fact, China and the US used the softer language in their bilateral climate agreement signed on November 10.
ActionAid’s policy and campaigns director Brandon Wu took exception to blaming India for the watered-down pledge. He criticised the US and other rich nations for “refusing” to phase out fossil fuel.
“Already seeing articles blaming India for #COP26 “phase down” instead of “out” coal language. REALLY important to see full context here. The problem is not India; the problem is the US & rich countries refusing to couch fossil fuel phaseout in the context of global equity”, he tweeted.
“The US is exceptionally good at spinning the media so they’re portrayed as “climate leaders” without actually committing to ANYTHING – then placing blame on developing countries instead…” Wu said.
Climate experts in India felt that the mention of “phase down” of coal by the country in an international climate agreement is an important indication of the energy transformation underway.
They criticised developed nations for once again failing to deliver the promised climate finance.
“The COP26 has definitely narrowed the gap for limiting global temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius and the processes which can be taken for future action,” said Aarti Khosla, director, Climate Trends.
She pointed out the failure of the US and the EU to deliver on the promised $100 billion in climate finance which remains urgent and central to any ambitious action.
“Blocking the establishment of even a modest fund to help vulnerable communities around the world with the massive loss and damage they are experiencing at the hands of the climate crisis is a serious blow… However, the first-ever mention of coal phase down in an international climate agreement is an important indication of the energy transformation underway and a clear signal to markets and industry. COP26 is real progress but much more is still to be done,” Khosla said.
Sharing a similar view, Kamal Narayan, CEO of Integrated Health and Well Being Council (IHW), said, “With the kind of commitment and leadership India has shown in building renewable energy infrastructure and its aim to draw more of its energy requirements from such sources, the use of ‘phasing down’ coal instead of ‘phasing out’ alone shall not be seen as a diversion from its commitment towards this global emergency.”
He said while activists would hardly be pleased with the COP26 outcomes and may criticise it for being too slow, the global realities and growth challenges for major populations like India too need to be considered.
While India has made rapid progress to tap renewable sources in recent years, 70 per cent of the country’s energy still comes from coal. Considering India’s pace of development and urbanisation, its energy requirements are expected to grow.
Manjeev Puri, distinguished fellow, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), said, “There is no real commitment on part of developed countries to move ahead with serious and urgent domestic action, let alone in terms of global collaboration and truly significant climate finance for tackling climate change.”
According to Suyash Gupta, director general, Indian Auto LPG Coalition, it is “unfair” for the west to ignore India’s energy imperatives.
“In fact, on a per capita basis, the West itself needs to do much more. Considering India’s impeccable non-proliferation record, the West must rather play the role of an enabler and expedite India’s entry into the Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG). Despite traversing well on the renewable roadmap, India just cannot wish away the energy needs of its 1.3 billion people – with two-thirds of its needs being currently met by coal,” Gupta said.
He said unless a more conducive global ecosystem is in place to fast-track the transition, India cannot be stifling its growth and sustenance needs.
The Glasgow Climate Pact states that the use of unabated coal should be “phased down”, as should subsidies for fossil fuels.
But this is the first time fossil fuels have been mentioned in a UN climate talks declaration.