The Marrakech re­port

In­dia's par­tic­i­pa­tion at the re­cently con­cluded 22nd Con­fer­ence of Par­ties was pas­sive and lacked vi­sion


CoP22 ends with ap­pre­hen­sion as Don­ald Trump's win puts a ques­tion mark on the fu­ture of global cli­mate talks

THE 22ND Con­fer­ence of Par­ties (cop22) to the United Na­tions Frame­work Con­ven­tion on Cli­mate Change (un­fccc), held in the Moroc­can city of Marrakech dur­ing Novem­ber 7-18, was sup­posed to usher in a new era and play a key role in the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Paris Agree­ment. The Agree­ment, adopted by 195 coun­tries in De­cem­ber 2015, seeks to re­strict global warm­ing to 2°C above pre-in­dus­trial lev­els and will come into ef­fect in 2020.

Op­ti­mists saw Marrakech as an op­por­tu­nity to step up im­me­di­ate ef­forts to tackle cli­mate change. Even for the re­al­ists, who thought of the con­fer­ence as more of a pro­ce­dural step to­wards op­er­a­tional­is­ing the Paris Agree­ment, the event marked an op­por­tune mo­ment to un­tan­gle con­tentious

is­sues be­tween the de­vel­op­ing and de­vel­oped coun­tries. But by the end, it be­came clear that if cop22 would be re­mem­bered, it would be for the un­cer­tainty that af­flicted it. The rea­son for the un­cer­tainty was largely the re­sult of pres­i­den­tial elec­tions in the US, where Don­ald Trump, a cli­mate change de­nier, emerged vic­to­ri­ous.

For In­dia, cop22 pro­vided an op­por­tu­nity to voice its con­cerns be­cause it is one of the worst suf­fer­ers of cli­mate change. Rain­fall has re­duced, ex­treme rain events have in­creased and agri­cul­ture is be­com­ing an in­creas­ingly pre­car­i­ous liveli­hood op­tion in In­dia. Ac­cord­ing to the World Bank, the coun­try is home to 276 mil­lion peo­ple liv­ing on less than US $1.25 a day and 200 mil­lion peo­ple fac­ing hunger. These are the most vul­ner­a­ble sec­tions of the so­ci­ety when it comes to cli­mate change im­pacts. One would imag­ine that un­der such con­di­tions, In­dia’s pres­ence at cop22 would be as­sertive and dis­cernible. The re­al­ity, though, was starkly dif­fer­ent.

In­dia’s lack of po­si­tion was ev­i­dent dur­ing the press con­fer­ence of ba­sic (a group­ing of Brazil, South Africa, In­dia and China) min­is­ters on Novem­ber 17, the eve of the clos­ing day of the con­fer­ence. While other min­is­ters en­gaged with the me­dia and put forth in­de­pen­dent as­sess­ments and ex­pec­ta­tions within the group, the In­dian en­vi­ron­ment min­is­ter, Anil Mad­hav Dave, seemed sat­is­fied sim­ply to agree with his coun­ter­parts.

Is­sues, such as the vul­ner­a­bil­ity of the agri­cul­ture sec­tor, adap­ta­tion to chang­ing cli­mate and loss and dam­age caused by it, all di­rectly af­fect In­dia’s poor. Yet In­dian par­tic­i­pa­tion in the dis­cus­sions was pas­sive. In­dia had no rep­re­sen­ta­tion on loss and dam­age due to cli­mate change, which im­pacts de­vel­op­ing coun­tries more than de­vel­oped coun­tries be­cause of their large pop­u­la­tions and low cop­ing ca­pac­ity. Other de­vel­op­ing coun­tries made in­ter­ven­tions to push for fi­nan­cial sup­port.

A sim­i­lar tale un­folded when it came to the con­tentious and vi­tal area of agri­cul­ture, the pri­mary oc­cu­pa­tion in In­dia. In­dia should have ar­gued for in­clu­sion of agri­cul­tural losses due to cli­mate change in loss and dam­age cal­cu­la­tions; but there was no of­fi­cial In­dian rep­re­sen­ta­tive in the dis­cus­sions un­til the fi­nal ses­sions. With re­gards to adap­ta­tion (cop­ing with cli­mate change), the dis­cus­sions re­mained fu­tile and In­dia had noth­ing to of­fer to break the deadlock (see ‘More loss than gain’, p12).

In­dian del­e­gates mostly kept re­peat­ing the of­fi­cial lines of fight­ing for “fi­nan­cial flows” and prompt “pre-2020 ac­tion”. The “pre-2020 ac­tion” that In­dia seems adamant on see­ing through is based on the 2012 Doha Amend­ment to the Ky­oto Pro­to­col. The amend­ment was meant to im­prove pre-2020 tar­gets and ac­tions. The amend­ment re­mains to be rat­i­fied even four years af­ter it was signed. More­over, since In­dia has not rat­i­fied it, the de­mand it is mak­ing is hol­low. Nonethe­less, In­dia rec­om­mended a dead­line of April 2017 for rat­i­fi­ca­tion of the amend­ment. The dead­line was not ac­cepted and the coun­tries

"Amer­ica is pow­er­ful but ul­ti­mately it is just one of the coun­tries on the ta­ble and the world does have the power to move for­ward with­out US sup­port" ‹ -HIIUH\ 6DFKV GHYHORSPHQW HFRQRPLVW DQG 81 VSHFLDO DGYLVHU RQ 6XVWDLQDEOH 'HYHORSPHQW *RDOV "Paris Agree­ment has been hugely tai­lored keep­ing the US in mind... The po­ten­tial threat of [its] re­jec­tion by the US un­der a new ad­min­is­tra­tion is real" ‹ 7 -D\DUDPDQ SURIHVVRU 6FKRRO RI +DELWDW 6WXGLHV 7DWD ,QVWLWXWH RI 6RFLDO 6FLHQFHV "There is a grow­ing man­date among state gov­ern­ments and pri­vate busi­nesses that aim to forge ahead in the en­deav­our to de­car­bonise... Hope­fully, this will be the per­sua­sion re­quired to stick with the [Paris] Agree­ment" ‹ 0DULDQD 3DQXQFLR )HOGPDQ FOLPDWH FKDQJH GHOHJDWLRQ KHDG :RUOG :LOGOLIH )XQG

merely re­it­er­ated that pre-2020 ac­tions should be en­hanced.

The other area of dis­cus­sion where the In­dian del­e­ga­tion showed keen­ness was the pro­ce­dural el­e­ments for fur­ther guid­ance on the form and im­ple­men­ta­tion of Na­tion­ally De­ter­mined Con­tri­bu­tions (ndcs). ndcs are cli­mate ac­tions plans set by coun­tries and were sub­mit­ted last year to un­fccc. In­dia ad­vo­cated that het­ero­gene­ity of ndcs should be ac­counted for in the next cy­cle of ndcs. In­dia also made ac­tive in­ter­ven­tions on the is­sue of global stock­take, which refers to a five-yearly re­view of the im­pact of coun­tries’ cli­mate change ac­tions and will hap­pen for the first time in 2023. In­dia said that this process should not bur­den de­vel­op­ing coun­tries and should take into ac­count their dif­fer­en­ti­ated ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

The Paris Agree­ment talks about a “built-in flex­i­bil­ity” with re­gard to trans­parency frame­work to re­port progress on coun­tries’ cli­mate ac­tion ef­forts and emis­sions. The built-in flex­i­bil­ity has been un­der­stood in terms of dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion, es­pe­cially by de­vel­op­ing coun­tries. But de­vel­oped coun­tries have con­tested this and want par­ity of ef­forts.

In­dia used the is­sues of trans­parency mech­a­nism and global stock­take to press its long-stand­ing de­mand of eq­uity. The del­e­ga­tion ar­gued that eq­uity should be re­flected in the for­mu­la­tion of modal­i­ties, pro­ce­dures and guide­lines (mpgs) of the Paris Agree­ment. How­ever, de­spite the ap­par­ent deter­mi­na­tion, In­dia had no im­ple­ment­ing strat­egy on how eq­uity should be op­er­a­tionalised or re­flected in the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Paris Agree­ment. Talks on these is­sues will con­tinue next year, when the coun­tries make their sub­mis­sions on mpgs.

Away from the ne­go­ti­a­tions, one of the catch­phrases that In­dia’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives re­peat­edly harped on was “sus­tain­able life­styles”. The phrase was even plas­tered across the ex­trav­a­gant In­dian Pav­il­ion. In­dia ar­gued that a sus­tain­able life­style was at the heart of In­dian cul­ture and tra­di­tion, and pointed out that rich coun­tries must curb their un­sus­tain­able con­sump­tion. Yet it failed to elab­o­rate or quan­tify what ex­actly it meant by sus­tain­able life­styles and con­sump­tion. In the ab­sence of such qual­i­fi­ca­tion of the phrase, the ar­gu­ment made for call­ing the In­dian life­style sus­tain­able could be dis­missed as a cir­cum­stance of the wide­spread poverty and re­source scarcity in the coun­try.

One small achieve­ment that can be cred­ited to In­dia was the sign­ing cer­e­mony of the In­ter­na­tional So­lar Al­liance on the side­lines of cop22. The Al­liance, launched dur­ing the Paris Sum­mit in 2015 as an ini­tia­tive of the In­dian Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi and French Pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­lande, aims to mo­bilise more than US $100 bil­lion in in­vest­ments for en­cour­ag­ing the use of so­lar en­ergy. More than 20 na­tions have joined the al­liance and it will come into force when 15 na­tions rat­ify and adopt it do­mes­ti­cally.

But on the whole, In­dia’s per­for­mance at the meet left a lot to be de­sired. It is iron­i­cal that a coun­try reel­ing from cli­mate change im­pacts should have a mit­i­ga­tion­cen­tric ne­go­ti­a­tion strat­egy. Our fo­cus should have been on agri­cul­ture, loss and dam­age, and fi­nance for low-car­bon growth. In­dia now needs to re­work its ne­go­ti­at­ing strat­egy be­fore the Bonn cli­mate talks in May 2017, where these is­sues will be dis­cussed again.


The 22nd Con­fer­ence of Par­ties was held in the Moroc­can city of Marrakech dur­ing Novem­ber 7-18

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