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India at the COP26: What to expect

COP stands for Conference of the Parties. Parties here refer to the signatories of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – a treaty signed in 1994 with 197 Parties (196 countries and the EU). The 2021 conference is hosted by the UK, collectively with partners in Italy, in Glasgow. It is the 26th meeting of the Parties, which is why it is called COP26.  

According to the UNFCCC, COP26 will work toward four goals:

  1. Net-zero by 2050: to ensure Global Net-Zero by Mid Century and sustain 1.5 Degrees within the limit. Nations are being urged to develop ambitious 2030 sorties reductions objectives that align with reaching net zero. To deliver on these stretching targets, countries will need to expedite coal phase-out, curtail deforestation, advance the switch to electric vehicles, and promote financing in renewables.
  2. Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats: nations will operate collectively to preserve and rehabilitate the ecosystem and resilient infrastructure and farming to circumvent the loss of houses, livelihoods, and even lives.
  3. Mobilise finance: developed nations must pledge to mobilise at least $ 100 Bn in climate finance per year.
  4. Work together to deliver: another crucial responsibility at the COP26 is to finalise the 'Paris Rulebook'. Leaders will work mutually to build a list of specific dictates that will help accomplish the Paris Agreement.

At COP26, India will highlight the necessity to comprehensively address climate change concerns, including equal allocation of carbon space, assistance for mitigation and adaptation and resilience-building actions, mobilisation of investment, technology transfer, and importance of sustainable lifestyle for green and comprehensive growth. India will also highlight climate justice and ask wealthier countries to transfer the technology and investment required to support developing countries dealing with global warming.  

India has so far abstained from setting a net-zero goal; however, the rationale behind the refusal is something Western countries should consider. R P Gupta, the Environment Secretary, said in this context, "It is how much carbon you are continuing to embed in the atmosphere before approaching net-zero that is more significant." 

Nevertheless, the fact is that climate change is already here. It is not going to pause for another 30 years. Plus, carbon removal does not happen in real-time. Our aim must be to cut all emissions and not plant a tree for each bit of coal we burn. That is like a permit to continue using fossil fuel. India's plan here is to concentrate more on the process. It wants to decrease the emissions concentration of its economy.  

India is operating a calibrated view on climate justice on four points – temperature, alleviation, finance, and efficiency by creating a counter corresponding to the shifting goalposts by the developed world. The assumption is that those who have historically contaminated more and obtained from it need to reduce faster than the rest and share the responsibility by offering investments and clean technologies available to countries that have not polluted more and thus have stayed behind on the development ladder. 

In arrangement with the COP26 goals, India should update its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). To bring about growth, India should begin centring on creating sector by sector programs, and it should emphasise on transitioning from its over-reliance on coal for some of the most strategically-important sectors such as power and transportation.

This article has been co-authored by Bhakti Jain and Devika Chawla.