A very common point in the discourse surrounding the climate crisis is the distinction between rich and developing countries. From the Indian perspective, the international climate community – from industrialized nations to multilateral organizations – would better serve the common cause of the climate crisis if they fully grasped the dilemma of a growing economy.
Often, international voices are forced to talk about issues in India, not appreciating its context, growing geographic and economic importance and role in mitigating the crisis. Foreign commentary must continue, critics must recognize historical cause and effect. The climate crisis is caused by past actions. This recognition is at the heart of India’s demands for funding for green transitions and climate justice. India and other emerging economies do not want to pay the price for damage they did not cause. The failure of the industrialized world to honor the economic promises made in Paris is not only disappointing; It threatens to be the geopolitical fiasco of our age. International activists argue that he is then critical of the US and Europe. But what they fail to do is direct their anger primarily towards these countries. For example, the US has seen an alarming rise in extreme weather and a depressing lack of consistency in climate policy. Likewise, Europe is struggling to ease its dependence on fossil fuels. These are rich countries whose centuries-old extraction of hydrocarbons creates pressure for innovation in the energy transition. So India’s hectoring is misguided.
Conversely, insights from within India evoke a different reaction. Because this voice – mostly from civil society groups – represents local communities with a firm grip on ground realities. This reality is so strong for India that there is no room for climate deniers.
India’s sharper focus on identifying climate targets and building mitigation strategies is desirable, especially as a developing country with a dual role in climate mitigation and the economic prosperity of its people. In renewable energy, the target is an ambitious 50% of energy needs to be met by renewables by 2030, equivalent to 500 GW of renewable capacity. The flip side is that 50% are not renewables. This means that the energy mix in India’s growing economy will continue to see a significant portion of fossil fuels. India has no other way to meet its energy demands while raising the standard of living of its people and providing a market for foreign manufacturers. It is not lost on policymakers that India is not betting on coal, but considers it a necessary evil.
Hence, this is a policy dilemma often misunderstood by the international community, which tends to argue with standardizations, not nuances, which, in turn, leads to a hardening of positions across the spectrum. Real progress requires us to move beyond easy rhetoric. In that spirit, here are some outsider views that understand the nuances that come with mitigation: One, emissions from thermal power generation need to be reduced – because 100% renewable capacity is still a long way off for India. Second, support must be deepened to accelerate the deployment of renewables. Three, cost and capacity risks associated with storage technologies must be overcome. Four, India alone cannot do this. Foreign capital and expertise remain indispensable partners in supporting India’s transition to a bigger, cleaner and more inclusive economy. For this, India needs technical assistance to accelerate adoption of new technologies or models; Deeper collaboration between industry and research to catalyze local climate technology solutions and, in turn, encourage more international investments; To amplify the case for climate finance as part of a broader climate justice narrative.
If the global climate movement can grasp the complex policy choices India has to make between energy, emissions and growth, we can all reach a position of meaningful consensus – and justice.
Hisham Mundol Chief Adviser-India, Environment Defense Fund Views expressed are personal