The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) annual meeting
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)’s annual climate conference, COP 25, held in Madrid in December, finished on an underwhelming note. Despite two weeks of rigorous talks and negotiations, delegates from nearly 200 countries were unable to reach an agreement on crucial issues revolving around the damage and loss resulting from climate change, financing for adaptation of climate change, and carbon markets.
As things stand, these conclusions have been postponed until the COP 26 summit, which will be held in Glasgow in November 2020. Glasgow are also significant because many countries are expected to announce their new Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs, for handling the climate crisis domestically.
Navroz K Dubash, that has been a lead author on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s 5th Assessment Report (AR5) in 2014 and a professor at the New Delhi-based Centre for Policy Research, is also a coordinating lead author of the IPCC AR6 report for 2022. Dubash thinks that the war on climate change wouldn’t have been won or lost in Madrid. Rather, what is more important is the way that individual markets legislate for a low-carbon future. In a meeting, Dubash talks about climate and environment concerns in India amid a slowing economy, the relevance and efficacy of NDCs, and his expectations on climate actions for 2020. Edited excerpts:
Madrid marked a ending to 2019. What are the main bottlenecks on climate action that is effective?
It was gloomy for various structural reasons. It was dismal because, internationally, in many countries, there isn’t a national appetite to address climate change. You have leaders that are de-emphasizing or actively pushing back like (Jair) Bolsanaro, (Donald) Trump, and Australia, also. That’s one reason why the wider conditions weren’t in place. The second explanation is that, I think, while there has been a very heartening, growing, political mobilization by young people, particularly in Europe, it’s also accompanied by the fact that the world is going through quite distressing times in other ways. The development of nationalism, identity politics-all of those things are also crowding the space. For instance, who wants to talk about climate change at the moment in India, given what we are going through with the discussion and unrest over the CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act) and the protests associated with that? So, the centre of gravity of the climate action has to be at the national level, particularly in keys country like the US, the EU as a block, Brazil, China, India, and so on.
You’ve written elsewhere it is not possible for India to grow first and clean up afterwards, and that this needs to be handled simultaneously. This is a special challenge.
I don’t think India has a choice, except for a way to develop in a way that’s clean. We have not fully realised that we do not have a choice. I don’t think that India is facing a middle-income snare anytime soon because we aren’t creating many jobs and we have a large unskilled labor force. But we could end up in a middle-income environment snare, wherein the conditions for our economy that rest on natural resources, the capability of our transport networks to move things around, the ability of our economy to get access to raw material, the ability to attract senior managers who are ready to brave the highest levels of contamination in the world-all of those things actually will have a material effect on growth. I think it is a hypothesis this can’t be proven by one, but I think it will be foolish to believe that the story is disconnected from the growth story right now. I believe the environment could easily become a constraint on our growth.
Given the GDP prices and the severely slowing economy, will environmental concerns and climate take a backseat?
People today mobilise about climate, as you see the Extinction Rebellion. But, when you have to acquire a system moving, a climate policy isn’t set by you except in a high level. If you believe about it in that way, it need not take a back seat, because in an economic slowdown, people care about their cities’ form and it pertains to the slowdown. If you are a sensible planner, you would worry about such matters, such as from a growth perspective.