Working towards Climate Justice

Synopsis: New Delhi has to control its green commitment to guarantee carbon and policy space for its developmental goals. It will ensure Climate Justice.


Joe Biden in the U.S. Presidential elections promised to lead a major diplomatic push to increase global climate ambition.

  • The U.S. is moving back to Obama’s achievement of the Paris Accord and to the Bush days. It is evident by the presidential call to resume the Major Economies Forum (MEF).
  • The MEF was started in March 2009. It aimed to push for a way forward on climate change without attention to the differentiated responsibilities and historical responsibilities.
What actions have been taken to control greenhouse gas emissions?

All the countries are being told to commit to net-zero (Green House Gas emissions) by 2050. China committed to reaching the target by 2060, but they have been strictly told to be there a decade earlier.

  • Firstly, the UN Secretary-General asked the countries to build a coalition for a carbon-neutral world by 2050. Countries representing around 65% of global CO2 emissions have already agreed to this. The UN Secretary-General wants this figure to reach 90% within 2021.
  • Secondly, the implementation of these plans will be subject to international reviews and verification. India can easily be the focus of this dialogue because of its huge population and one of the world’s largest economies.
  • Thirdly, the EU might impose carbon border taxes on those who do not take on high carbon cut-down targets. This could add to the challenges of this proposed global goal.
  • Fourthly, the U.S. Administration appears uncertain on these border taxes, but this possibility cannot be ruled out. In such a situation, World Trade Organization rules that currently exclude the use of charges on environmental grounds will surely get modified.
What is the idea suggested by Raghuram Rajan?

The lack of money is a constant issue in the climate discourse. Raghuram Rajan has recently put forward a proposal for India to consider. It asks countries to pay into a global fund amounts based on their carbon emissions over and above the global per-capita average of five tons.

  • This step disincentive coal and incentivises renewables. Countries above the global average would pay, while those below would receive the taxes. This method may be unacceptable to the developed countries.
  • This proposal may appear attractive to India as today it has a per capita CO2 emission of only 2 tons. India is a global record-setter in pushing renewables. However, it is unlikely that real politics would allow a major economy to benefit from such fund flows.
  • The long-term consequences of this proposal require examination in detail. Alternatives such as emission trading should also be considered.

However, The proposal focuses on current and future emissions. Thus, it penalizes developing countries while giving developed countries a certain free pass. Because more than 75% of the carbon space available to keep global temperature rise to 1.5° C already been utilized by the developed world and China.

The way forward
  • Climate negotiations are also about global governance and will hereafter be pursued with a drive. It requires India to carefully regulate its approach including on the economic and political fronts.
  • Climate justice is very important for India. It needs to influence its green and pro-nature commitment to ensure carbon and policy space for its developmental and global aspirations. India’s diplomatic and negotiating efforts must be quickly geared to that end.

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