[Prime Minister Narendra Modi being received by President of France Francois Hollande on his arrival for the UNFCCC Climate Conference, in Paris, France on November 30, 2015. ]
The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP 21 or CMP 11 has started in Paris. It will be held from November 30 to December 11.
The world leaders are arriving at the conference to discuss and the debate on the various issues of climate change on which a global consensus may be arrived.
This will be the 21st yearly session of the Conference of the Parties to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It will be the 11th session of the Meeting of the Parties to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.
The objective of the Paris conference is to achieve a binding and universal agreement on the issues climate of change from all the nations of the world. It is for more than 20 years such negotiations has been going on but consensus seems to be eluding, though concerns has been acknowledged.
The overarching goal of the Paris conference is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to cap the global temperature by limiting it to below 2 °C.
In the previous climate negotiations, countries had agreed to outline actions they intend to take within a global agreement by March 2015. These commitments known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions or INDCs were not enough to keep the temperature level to stay below 2 °C.
At the current level, there is an ever increasing gap between the action of the countries and what actually is being called for by the global body.
In the past, it is seen that countries have given some commitments but had never adhered to the same. The Paris conference will take stock of the nature of aggregate assessment of each country’s climate actions and how this assessment will impact each country's individual targets after 2020. It is hoped that the targets that would be specified for the countries are also legally binding.
In this context, role of India, China and the US is very significant. This is because they are at the top on the chart of the most contributors to the global emission.
The debate on 'emission target actions' has been caught up in differentiated responsibility between the developed nations and the developing ones.
India has always argued that there should be two yardsticks for cutting down the emission levels, one for the developed countries and other for the developing nations.
India has argued that the developing countries cannot make drastic emission cuts because their developmental activities and sustainable industrialization will be in jeopardy. India has pleaded on behalf of the developing countries to be given concessions on emission reduction to carry on the development goals.
At the Paris conference, it will be seen whether the scrutiny of the rich and poor countries will be uniform or the developing countries are given some concessions. How the concerns of the developing nations will be accommodated is the centre piece of climate negotiations at the Paris conference.
The general understanding is that Paris conference will try to bridge the responsibilities across the board and may not divide the world on developed and developing lines.
In such case the agreement made at Paris could be legally binding. Can such agreement become operational without brining countries like India on board?
Just like other large developing economies, India, too has sought to protect itself and has its own views on the climate debate.
Under the leadership of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India is going to announce some concessions and make contributions to the conference.
India has already sounded its Global Apollo Programme which is a plan to find ways within the next 10 years to make green energy clean and cheaper to produce.
India intends to propose creating an alliance of solar-rich countries similar to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
India may like to push such ideas and seek partnerships, technology transfers, and collaborations on tapping the solar energy.
How will provision of finance and tech from rich nations will be reviewed and linked to action of developing countries is something eagerly being watched.
Next is the financial package that the developed world will offer and along with it the political announcement that would be made as the part of legal agreement are other developments to be watched at the Paris Conference.
The critical issue for developing nations is the gap between their equitable share of the global carbon space and the actual share of carbon space that will be accessible to them. The transfer of appropriate technologies and provision of adequate finance will have to be a determined contribution of the developed countries.
How these voluntary and domestic contributions of countries would be legally binding in the agreement and how they would be reviewed is eagerly being watched.
Given the caveats, there is a caution against the odds that some countries might try and force an agreement, which is not equitable and just and the conference may end up with with weak and shoddy agreements.
So instead of having a weak agreement it would be fair if the developed countries respect the concerns of the developing countries and fulfil their commitments. They may allow the developing countries to catch up with them in a course of time. That’s the only way to seize the moment and move ahead to meeting challenges of the climate catastrophe.