India Reclaiming Global Leadership on Climate Change

India Reclaiming Global Leadership on Climate Change

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manmohanandobama 2A miniscule spot of light that I see at the end of two decades-long tunnel of climate negotiations. Amidst the crisis filled dark world –Syria, Finance, Terror, Quantitative Easing, loss of biodiversity, water, food , fossil fuels and so on

-there is ray of hope coming from that spot sparked by world leaders no less than G20 .

When Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh launched India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change in 2008 and its target to reduce energy intensity, he was hailed as a global leader for taking bold steps to address climate change.  More recently, India has received a wake up call from climate-driven tragedies such as the floods in Uttarakhand and the dire droughts of 2012 and more floods and droughts again in 2013, and Dr. Singh is once again returning to a leadership role.

Last week, India’s Prime Minister joined China’s President Xi Jinping, U.S. President Barack Obama, and the other leaders of the G20 large economies to support “full implementation of the agreed outcomes under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)”, and its ongoing negotiation towards a new UN climate treaty by 2015. India and the other G20 leaders also agreed to support “operationalization of the Green Climate Fund” and to “support…using the Montreal Protocol to phase down the production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)…,” leaving HFCs within the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol for “accounting and reporting of emissions.”

The Montreal Protocol is the world’s most successful environmental treaty, renowned for solving the first great threat to the global atmosphere—the destruction of the stratospheric ozone layer that protects all living things from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation — while also making a major contribution to mitigating climate change, the other global threat to the atmosphere.

There are many benefits to India from supporting the Montreal Protocol strategy. First, with India’s leadership, it will now be possible to quickly complete the consensus to phase down HFCs under the Montreal Protocol, providing the world with significant near-term climate protection, through a treaty that never fails.

The HFC phase down will avoid the equivalent of a 100 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2050 and up to 0.5° C of warming by the end of the century.  This is major contribution to the effort to keep global warming from exceeding 2°C above pre-industrial levels, the outer limit for a tolerable climate agreed by many scientists and policymakers.  (Today, the climate is already 0.8°C over pre-industrial levels.)

Second, the HFC amendment will catalyze improvements in energy efficiency of refrigerators, air conditioners (both stationary and in vehicles), and other equipment using HFCs as refrigerants. Refrigeration and air-conditioning in India consume as much as 40% of our electricity, with peak demand that occurs during the hottest months regularly causing brownouts and blackouts. In past phase-outs under the Montreal Protocol, the improvements in efficiency have been in the range of 30-50%.

This means using less electricity to operate refrigerators and air conditioners, which means lower fossil fuel use and lower carbon dioxide emissions, giving this strategy a double climate benefit. These efficiency gains will save money for consumers and reduce India’s import burden of fossil fuels and the current account deficit, a key parameter for India’s recent financial crisis.

Third, the HFC amendment will reaffirm the principle of “common but differentiated responsibility” for climate protection.  This is a central principle for India and indeed all developing countries during all climate negotiations, including the current effort to secure a strong United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change by 2015 to go into effect by 2020.  Simply put, this principle means that all countries must do their part to solve climate change—our common responsibility—but that some have greater responsibility and capabilities to do more, sooner—the differentiated responsibility.

All parties to the Montreal Protocol fully follow this principle. Developed countries act first to phase out their production and use of the CFCs and other ozone-depleting gases, while developing countries are given a grace period of several years to continue their production and use.   At the end of the grace period, the developing countries are required to take their own actions to phase out controlled chemicals, with the developed countries paying the agreed incremental costs of implementing the transitions to environmentally friendly substitutes in the developing countries.

The Montreal Protocol’s dedicated funding mechanism was set up with India’s diplomatic leadership in 1990, and so far has paid more than $3 billion dollars to developing countries, including funding to support national ozone offices in all 147 developing countries. (Until recently, I headed the UN OzonAction office, which provides institutional support for national ozone offices, and I can personally attest to the success of this effort.)  The Montreal Protocol’s approach to solving the threat to the ozone layer has phased out nearly 100 dangerous chemicals by nearly 100%, saving millions of lives and preventing untold other damage to the planet.

Fourth and finally, success with the HFC amendment under the Montreal Protocol will help build the trust and momentum needed to conclude a successful agreement under the UN climate negotiations in 2015.  Leadership on climate policy must come from the heads of State, and the leaders of the large economies must work together to pave the way forward for all countries of the world. Last week’s agreement by India, China, and the U.S., along with the other G20 leaders shows this is possible.

Dr. Manmohan Singh is now getting ready for the bilateral summit with USA and close talks with President Obama by end September. He has an opportunity to demonstrate his leadership in climate change in renewed way.

As Inter Governmental Panel on Climate Change-IPCC gets ready to release its Fifth Assessment Reports, the climate change continues to disrupt Indian growth. Storms are more intense and floods and mudslides are destroying lives and villages. The sea level is rising. The weather and seasons are becoming increasingly erratic, unpredictable, and even deadly.  If we permit climate change to continue by failing to act now while there is yet time, the future we leave for our children will be filled with sorrow, hardship, and the loss of much that is sacred and irreplaceable.  This year India is reclaiming its rightful place as a leader among nations for the essential task of protecting our common climate and the future of humanity.

Rajendra Shende, an  IIT –alumni is  founder and chairman of TERRE in Pune, India, an environmental think tank promoting sustainable development and  former Director of the OzonAction Branch of the United Nations Environment Programme, Division of the Technology, Industry and Economics in Paris, where he was responsible for providing advice and assistance on climate and ozone protection to 147 developing countries. Mr. Shende, had extensive experience in fluorochemicals and development of their ozone-friendly alternatives before his UN career. He was also one of the coordinating lead authors of IPCC’s special report.


Further notes for the readers 

 Full Press release of White House on G 20 meeting can be found at

This is the full language of relevant part from the G20 communique’ :

Pursuing the Fight against Climate Change

100. Climate change will continue to have a significant impact on the world economy, and cost will be higher to the extent we delay additional actions. We reiterate our commitment to fight climate change and welcome the outcome of the 18th conference of the Parties to the UN climate change conferences. We are committed to a full implementation of the outcomes of Cancun, Durban and Doha and will work with Poland as the incoming presidency towards achieving a successful outcome at COP 19.

101. We are committed to support the full implementation of the agreed outcomes under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its ongoing negotiations. We strongly welcome the efforts of the Secretary-General of the United Nations to mobilize political will through 2014 towards the successful adoption of a protocol, another legal instrument, or an agreed outcome with legal force under the convention applicable to all Parties by 2015, during COP-21 that France stands ready to host. We also support complementary initiatives, through multilateral approaches that include using the expertise and the institutions of the Montreal Protocol to phase down the production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), based on the examination of economically viable and technically feasible alternatives. We will continue to include HFCs within the scope of UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol for accounting and reporting of emissions.

102. Taking note of the developments over the past year, we support the operationalization of the Green Climate Fund (GCF). We welcome the report of the G20 Climate Finance Study Group on G20 countries’ experiences on ways to effectively mobilize climate finance taking into account the objectives, provisions, and principles of the UNFCCC. For the purpose of elaborating on the issues and identifying approaches to climate finance, we ask our Finance Ministers to continue the work building on the working group report and report back to us in one year.

Further Note: This OpEd appeared in number of media agencies in India and Abroad between 20-24the Sept 2013. END

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