India should Ensure Climate Justice in Net Zero Target Debate

Synopsis: India needs to propose an alternative formulation that ensures Climate Justice in achieving the ‘net-zero target’.

  • Recently, the United States Special Presidential Envoy for Climate visited India. Both sides discussed briefly about their cooperation on climate change and strategy for long term priorities and long-term targets.
  • Also, S. President Joe Biden’s ‘Leaders’ Summit on Climate’ is scheduled on April 22-23. This summit is expected to set a stage for major countries to outline their climate plans.
  • Today, climate action to reduce GHG emissions has become equal to achieving a net-zero emission target by 2050.
  • However, achieving net zero emissions have created a dilemma for the fast-growing developing countries like India. Because, these countries need carbon space to develop, and they are also among the most vulnerable countries to climate change.

What are the different views on adopting Net zero-emission targets in India?

  • The debate on whether India should declare a net-zero target or not has centred around two alternative strategies.
    1. One view supports delegitimizing long-term targets and to focus on measurable near-term progress.
    2. Whereas the other view argues that without long-term targets, the path to decarbonization has little value.
Which way to decide?
  • Neither the short- nor the long-term targets delink from the climate action plan.
  • Because a short-term target such as improvements in energy efficiency and fast penetration of electric vehicles cannot substitute a clear long-term target. Also, avoiding net zero emission targets will make India look like a climate laggard.
  • Rather, India should attempt to reframe the net-zero debate on the basis of climate justice. Climate justice ensures that countries are equitably responsible based on their past and future emission.
  • This approach will facilitate economic advancement and climate responsibility on parallel lines without compromising one another.
How climate justice can be ensured?

To ensure principles of climate justice, a formula that combines per capita income and aggregate emissions is required.

  1. First, high-income countries (i.e., per capita income of $12,536 or more in 2019 prices) should achieve net-zero emissions within 15-20 Years. For instance,
      • European Union or the United States needs to achieve net-zero emissions by 2035-40, rather than 2050.
      • Whereas India, which may become a high-income economy around 2050, should need to achieve net-zero emissions by 2070.
      • Even by this method, high-income countries will have a longer transition period between peaking emissions and net-zero compared to India, according to Council on Energy, Environment and Water report.
  2. Second, Countries that are not in the high-income category should aim to reduce their Aggregate emissions (historical emission + future emission) compared to high-income countries. Because this idea accounts for the advantages enjoyed by developing countries to tap into technological advances and cost reductions.
      • For example, India benefited from falling solar costs and was able to aim higher for its renewable energy ambitions.
      • This will also create the conditions for further innovation and investment in climate-friendly infrastructure, technologies, business models, and behavioral changes.
      • As climate mitigation technologies become more widely available and cheaper, all countries will be able to achieve net-zero much earlier.

Countries need both short-term and long-term targets to establish certainty of action, the credibility of promises and create incentives for markets to respond.

Source: The Hindu

What is net zero target? How fair and realistic these targets are?

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