Tracking the Progress of Paris Climate Agreement: India and China

By: Nadashree M.K.

Climate change isn’t something new. But, we are now experiencing the worst due to it. Though some studies in the 1800s showed an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide due to human actions, it was the first data on carbon dioxide readings in the late 1950s that substantiated the phenomenon and theory of climate change.

What is the Paris Agreement?

The Paris Agreement is a legally binding international treaty on climate change. As the name suggests, the agreement was adopted in the French capital, Paris by 196 countries at the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP21). A landmark multilateral accord on climate change, the Agreement aims “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C.” It also reaffirms providing financial assistance or climate finance to the developing countries for tackling climate change and adopting clean energy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Along with these frameworks, the Paris Agreement emphasis greatly on capacity building allied to climate change.

India’s Paris Agreement Commitment

A country with a 138 crore population, India is the third-largest polluter in the world with 2,654 million tons of CO2 emission, which is almost 4.10% of global carbon emission. Hence, the responsibility of India towards the Paris Agreement is huge. India signed the Agreement on 22 April 2016 and joined the Agreement on October 2, 2016. Ahead of the virtual meeting of Climate Ambition Summit 2020, India’s environment minister Prakash Javadekar announced that India is on track to achieving the Paris Agreement goals. India is among the few countries which pledged to reduce the emissions intensity of GDP by 33-35% by 2030.

India is on the stand that the country is not responsible for climate change and urges the developed countries to do more about the issue. Almost six years since the Paris Agreement, India has already reduced emissions intensity by 21% of the given target. India has installed 38 per cent of the total 40 per cent non-fossil fuel electricity capacity. However, the country needs to work more to achieve 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in forest cover by 2030. India has also adopted various domestic policies and led international efforts in fighting climate change.

India is aiming to install 175 GW of renewable energy by 2020 and 450 GW by. In 2020, India’s thermal capacity and solar tariff have dropped significantly. The India Cooling Action Plan– a plan focusing on various issues and challenges of energy poverty are benefiting in saving energy and reducing heat-trapping of hydrofluorocarbons. At the international level, India recently created the Apex Committee for Implementation of Paris Agreement (AIPA) for increasing coordination on achieving Paris Agreement targets. It is also leading dialogues in the International Solar Alliance, International Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) etc.

China at Paris Agreement

Being one of the tech giants and emerging economic powerhouse, China is the second-largest polluting country with 28% of global carbon emission after the USA. Rapid increase in population and urbanisation has resulted in huge atmospheric pollution.  The country heavily depends on coal, which is a major contributor to already worsening pollution. A study done by Nature Sustainability points out that though the cities are growing rapidly, per capita emission has begun to drop. This could reduce overall carbon emissions in the nation before reaching the year 2030. So certainly, China is on its way to achieving targets of the Paris Agreement.

But, as per Climate Action Tracker, China’s achievement is inadequate unless other countries make a collective effort to reach the target. It was also found that the greenhouse gas emission of China could rise until 2030 or a decade before. The Chinese government has subsidised the manufacturing of electric vehicles to reduce the use of vehicles run on fossil fuels and gases. This boosted the consumption of electric vehicles by 1.1 million in 2018. As the largest manufacturer of solar energy in the world, China is taking active steps in the fight against climate change.

During an online session of the UN General Assembly in September last year, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced that the country is aiming to curb peak carbon emission by 2030 and become carbon neutral by 2060. Xi’s announcement came as a surprise for the world leaders. In 2018 and 2019, the carbon emissions of China continued to rise. He also pledged for the green recovery of the world in the pandemic. It is observed that Beijing’s policies came after the reluctant nature of Washington in addressing climate change. This move could make China the next world leader in dealing with the issue.

While India and China are taking active steps in achieving Paris Agreement targets, other major powers such as Russia, the USA, Saudi Arabia are barely taking any initiative in the issue. Though there are greater common goals in the fight against climate change, there are a lot higher targets that should be achieved with greater responsibility. 

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