How has the principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ affected global climate policies since the UNFCCC in 1992?
Why have the disproportionate historical carbon emissions of developed countries impacted the global carbon budget?
What stance should India adopt at COP 28 regarding its fair share of the carbon budget?
Climate Change and CO2 emission:
CO2 relationship: There is an almost linear relationship between global warming and cumulative carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
Emissions from developing countries: The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate change (UNFCCC) in 1992 noted that per capita emissions in developing countries are still “relatively low” and that their share in the global emissions will grow to meet their social and developmental needs.
CBDR¬RC principle: The Convention recognises the ‘common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities’ (CBDR¬RC) principle.
This means different States have different responsibilities and respective capabilities in tackling climate change.
This principle has been reaffirmed in the Paris Agreement, whose main aim is to hold “the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre¬industrial levels’‘ and pursue efforts “to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre¬industrial levels”.
IPCC AR6: According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Sixth Assessment Report (IPCC AR6), every 1,000 billion tonnes of CO2 in emissions causes an estimated 0.45 degrees Celsius rise in the global surface temperature.
Axiomatically, limiting the rise in global temperature to a specific level means limiting cumulative carbon dioxide emission to within a carbon budget.
What is the global carbon budget?
Global carbon budget: The term ‘global carbon budget’ refers to the maximum cumulative global anthropogenic CO2 emissions – from the pre¬industrial era to when such emissions reach net- zero, resulting in limiting global warming to a given level with a given probability.
Remaining carbon budget: The remaining carbon budget indicates how much CO2 could still be emitted, from a specified time after the pre¬industrial period, while keeping temperature rise to the specified limit.
IPCC AR6: The IPCC AR6 has shown that the world warmed by a staggering 1.07 degrees Celsius until 2019 from pre¬industrial levels, so almost four-fifths of the global carbon budget stands depleted.
Emission targets: Only a fifth remains to meet the target set in the Paris Agreement. For a 50% chance of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the U.S. would have to reach net¬zero in 2025, rather than 2050; Germany by 2030 instead of 2045; and the EU¬28 bloc by 2031 instead of 2050.
Who’s responsible for cumulative global emissions?
Larger Emissions: According to the IPCC AR6, the developed countries have appropriated a disproportionately larger share of the global carbon budget to date.
Lower Emissions: The contribution of South Asia — which includes India — to historical cumulative emissions is only around 4% despite having almost 24% of the entire world population.
Fossil fuel and industry: The per capita CO2¬FFI (fossil fuel and industry) emissions of South Asia was just 1.7 tonnes CO2¬equivalent per capita, far below North America (15.4 tonnes CO2-eq. per capita) and also significantly lower than the world average (6.6 tonnes CO2¬ per capita).
Carbon budget and equity for India:
Fair share of the carbon budget: India must recognise a ‘fair share of the carbon budget’ as a strategic national resource whose reserves are depleting rapidly due to over¬exploitation by developed countries.
New colonial techniques: In a rapidly depleting global carbon budget, if we fail to deploy resources at our command to forcefully use it as a strategic national resource, we will be short changed by new colonial techniques of developed countries.
CO2 Emissions: In almost all the emissions scenarios estimated by the IPCC, the world breaches an increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius from pre¬industrial levels in the early 2030s. In 2022, oil, coal and gas accounted for 30%, 27% and 23% of the world’s total energy, while solar and wind energy together contributed only 2.4%.
Backtracking of Coal: At the COP 26 talks in Glasgow, developed contries forced the issue of phasing down the use of coal but then backtracked by reopening coal plants across Europeafter the Russia-Ukraine war created an energy crisis.
Gas as Green fuel: The developed countries have stretched the argument further by calling gas “green” and a “bridge fuel” towards their own decarbonisation efforts.
India’s stance at COP 28:
Niti Aayog report: According to the NITI Aayog¬N. Development Programme’s Multidimensional Poverty Index Report 2023 review, India has been able to lift more than 135 million poor out of poverty in less than five years (2015¬2021).
Food security welfare measures: India has also just extended food security welfare measures to more than 800 million people in the country, under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY), highlighting the magnitude of the challenge of poverty eradication after COVID¬19.
Unmet Promises: It is imperative that developing countries receive a fair and equitable share of their carbon budget alongside stronger and more fruitful commitments from developed countries – including the promised but unmet climate¬specific new and additional finance.
International consensus: The Indian government has led from the front to foster international consensus to tackle climate change.
India has set up the International Solar Alliance, the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure, and the Global Biofuel Alliance.
Through the ‘Lifestyle for Environment’ (LiFE) mission, the Indian government also aims to spread awareness of good lifestyle practices and establish that sustainable lifestyles are the best way forward.
Fair share of its carbon budget: At COP 28, India must demand a fair share of its carbon budget or equivalent reparations to bring about fairness within the global order.
India’s emissions: Based on India’s historical emissions (1850¬2019), it has a carbon credit equivalent of 338 GtCO2-eq., equal to around $17 trillion at $50/tCO2¬eq.
Unfair Condition: Without finance and technology as promised in 1992 at the Rio Earth Summit, developing countries stare at an even more unfair world.
The cover decision of the Glasgow Climate Pact recorded an unprecedented “regret” on the failure of the developed countries to provide US $100 billion dollars ayear, as promised at the COP 15 talks in Copenhagen in 2009.