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Tag Archives | United Nation Convention on Climate Change

The Trumping of Marrakech

The 22nd Conference of Parties (COP) to the UNFCC negotiations at Marrakech have barely been in the mainstream Indian news simply because it is hard to find the media space between the withdrawal of the Rs.500 and Rs.1000 notes and the U.S Presidential elections. The COP 22 negotiations were to represent the optimism of a hard fought climate deal and design the implementation strategy for the Paris Deal. However, they have been largely overshadowed in light of contemporary geopolitics.

On November 4th, the outcome of the 2015 Paris negotiations came to fruition as 176 countries (the largest number to sign an international instrument since UNCLOS) deposited their instruments of signature at the United Nations. India had jumped on the bandwagon by ratifying the climate deal on the symbolic date of Gandhi Jayanti.

Multilateral negotiations for the climate deal saw India change its stance from a disrupter to a norm follower- a stance it has echoed in other multilateral negotiations including nuclear proliferation and the WTO negotiations. India had resolutely refused to sign any climate deals that did not involve Western nations in pulling their weight. Indian diplomats had claimed that in order to allow their citizens dignity of life through economic development, they could not commit to energy cut back of the scale required and insisted that countries responsible for the emissions take the lead.

However, this was not a viable position for long. Once China, the world’s largest contributor to carbon emissions joined with the US to cut down on emissions, India would have found its disruptive stance an even more unpopular and isolated position. India has shifted its stance and declared its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC). However India’s new stance also stresses on its reliance on the rest of the world in bridging its energy needs through technology and help. Over the last year, steps have also been taken within the country to support its stance at the COPs. By streamlining its civil aviation rules and signing the CFC cutdown treaty, India has shown its willingness in combating climate change.

However, all of that now stands to change. The biggest shadow over the Marrakech COP is the US Presidential elections. While hyperbole has shown anti-Trump supporters protesting even at Marrakech, Donald Trump’s record on climate change shows little promise. He has repeatedly dismissed climate change and global warming as hoaxes and even gone on record to state that climate change was a conspiracy pioneered by the Chinese to reducing American manufacturing potential. Trump has stated that he would roll back the Paris Agreement. But speculation about Trump’s potential climate policy will lead us down a road that goes nowhere.

The Paris Agreement was ratified by President Obama on the sidelines of the G20 summit. In a show of US-China alignment, leaders of both countries deposited the Paris deal together is Hangzhou. The Paris Agreement also does not allow countries to withdraw from it for a period of three years. Therefore, there is little danger of Trump rolling back the Paris deal.

However, it is important to remember that INDCs are, at the end of the day, voluntary mechanisms based on good faith. They are non enforceable and bear little penalties in international law though the effects of climate change may seem apparent to everyone but Trump supporters. What is possible is that Trump will not prioritise the INDCs or fund the Clean Energy Plan, the brainchild of the Obama Administration. This is particularly important in terms of signalling for other countries. Countries like Saudi Arabia whose economies depend on conventional sources of energy could take the lethargy of the United States as a signal to disregard the Paris Deal. This would mean that the hard won negotiations of the last seven years have come to nought. Trump’s disregard for climate change will also stir the Chinese to take the lead on the issue. Already, Chinese officials have stated that they are committed to their climate change declarations despite political changes in other countries. China has also set up its national carbon emission trading market and has reportedly reduced its carbon intensity by 20% between 2011 and 2015.

What does this mean for India? India directly faces the effects of climate change as much of its agriculture is contingent on the monsoons. It has shifted its stance from norm disrupter to norm follower as a way to break out of the climate chakravyuh. However, if the United States will not stick to its INDC and China will, which path will India choose? Several commentators are already questioning India’s stance considering its close ties with the US. However, a comprehensive definition of security would require India to stick to its INDCs as the country is vulnerable to the effects of climate change. India needs to exercise its strategic autonomy and continue with tackling its INDCs.

Hamsini Hariharan is a Research Scholar with the Takshashila Institution and tweets at @HamsiniH

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Corporate support is not crucial to counter climate change

Corporate support on climate issues will not have a major impact on bringing a consensus on issues related to climate change.

France is hosting the 21st session of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, commonly known as COP21, in December. One of the most discussed issues in the build up for COP21  has been whether corporate support will play a major role in bringing a consensus on the steps required to counter climate change. The Corporate support, although ideal, may not prove to be a decisive factor in the run up to this year’s COP21 conference in Paris. The corporates can provide monetary support, but they will be unsuccessful in pushing the climate change issue.

The primary aim of the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nation Convention on Climate Change (COP21) is “to achieve a new international agreement on the climate, applicable to all countries, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2%.”

In order to attain a consensus for an international agreement, various incentives of the state and non-state actors would have to be kept in mind. Empirical evidence suggests that people respond to incentives. In such a case, it is a herculean task to arrive at an international consensus because individual actors’ (state or non-state) incentives are different. While some corporates might provide monetary commitment, this is far from what is actually required to solve the complex climate change issue.

There are two primary reasons for this. First, difference in objectives. Second, ineffective impact.

Difference in objectives

Climate change is a trans-border phenomenon and has varied impacts across the globe. That said, thanks to the unequal distribution of resources and development the various actors in the COP21 will deal with the issue keeping in mind their own individual preferences and objectives. For instance, the developed nations might be willing to take tough measures against the issue. But the developing countries might weigh the opportunity cost of not pursuing their growth agenda and therefore be unwilling to take the necessary measures to reduce the impact of climate-change. It is in this context that, the COP21 cites the importance of “efforts to account the needs and capacities of each country”.

Like individual states, businesses too have varied incentives, primarily profit-maximization. Normatively, their goal is to pursue their growth agenda, well within the framework of the law. In effect, most of the resources in a corporate firm are directed towards providing goods and services in a profitable manner and not towards activities that affect the profits.

In spite of this, corporate entities do provide social benefits. They generate employment which has manifold impacts on the economy, and on societies. Contributing towards climate causes is ideal, however that is not the primary responsibility of the corporates. Environmental sustainability is an important social responsibility, but since corporate objectives are not always aligned with societal objectives, the solution(s) to climate change issues cannot be arrived at merely through monetary support.

Ineffective impact

Assuaging climate change requires strong policy level changes, to ensure contributions from everyone in the society. Unless strong policies are crafted, corporate support will happen in an unstructured and adhoc manner.

In a set-up like COP21, corporate support will bring in the much-required technologies and skills to the table. These are essential but not sufficient conditions to solve a truly global challenge. Scientific research suggests that, in order to bring global warming down by 2 per cent, “immediate significant and sustained global mitigation (is required), with a probable reliance on net negative emissions in the longer term.” That is, a highly synchronised effort is required with large-scale changes to the way things are done within an economy. This aspect is well captured in the COP21 objective “to guide economic and financial stakeholders towards redirecting their investments in order to launch the transition to low-carbon economies.”


In such a scenario, the only stakeholder with the ability to create incentives for such changes are the policy makers. For the role of governments is to ensure public goods are delivered, and climate is after all a global public good. The role of the policy maker varies from being able to identify the policy issue to being skilful enough to advocate viable policy packages in a clear, brief and persuasive way. Hence it is extremely critical to manage these key negotiators. The policy makers on the other hand need to be cognisant of the risks and imminent dangers of rapid human-related climate change while devising policies that will help mitigate the problems.

Corporate support will only act as a catalyst in this policy driven process. The prime movers in this scenario are undoubtedly the policymakers in the governments of various nations. Support from the corporates must be viewed as a sign of the growing recognition for environmental issues. However, it will not be a major determinant of negotiations at COP21. The negotiations will require various stakeholders to come to a common agreement, which is possible in a situation where efficient policies hold primacy.

Devika Kher is a Research Associate at Takshashila Institution. Her twitter handle is @DevikaKher.

Image source: Flickr

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