India ex-climate minister lays out ‘minimums’ for Paris deal

Tool to both verify countries’ carbon cuts and ratchet them up in the future vital to summit’s success, says Jairam Ramesh

Ramesh, India's minister of environment and forests from 2009-11 (Flickr/ Mat McDermott)

Jairam Ramesh, India’s minister of environment and forests from 2009-11 (Flickr/ Mat McDermott)

By Alex Pashley

A UN climate summit in December must produce a mechanism to prove countries are making good on voluntary pledges to fight climate change, India’s former environment minister said on Thursday.

Nearly 150 countries accounting for 90% of world greenhouse gas emissions have outlined carbon-cutting visions as part of a global climate agreement.

It is an unprecedented level of engagement with the issue, but Jairam Ramesh, who led India in climate talks from 2009-11, warned it must be backed up.

“Paris has to deliver a credible system of monitoring, reporting and verification, in which countries hold themselves accountable for commitments that they have domestically made.”

National pledges would otherwise be “just pieces of paper,” he added at a London event organised by Climate Home, E3G and PwC.

Report: India poised to overachieve ‘cautious’ emissions target

A second “minimum” condition was that top carbon polluters like the United States, China and the European Union must agree to deepen emissions cuts at regular intervals, Ramesh added, who is an Indian National Congress opposition lawmaker.

“All the major emitters should be in a position to announce a very clear low carbon growth trajectory… which would enable us to have the next generation of INDCs [intended nationally determined contributions] maybe in five years.”

To hold global warming to 2C above pre-industrial levels while maintaining economic growth, consultancy PwC calculates emissions intensity needs to fall 6.3% a year.

Yet national pledges imply a 3% annual cut to emissions for each unit of GDP, less than half that rate.

Envoys from 195 nations will have that on their minds as they descend on Paris in six weeks.

Report: India targets 33-35% emissions intensity cut by 2030

Ramesh noted conditions for a global warming agreement were more benign than in 2009, when an attempt in Copenhagen failed.

He has argued for India to take on binding cuts previously. The world’s fourth-largest emitter has committed to cut emissions intensity – CO2 for each unit of GDP – by 33-35% by 2030 on 2005 levels, and to ramp up renewable energy generation.

A US-China joint agreement, India’s approval of legislation to tackle potent warming gases used in fridges called HFCs, and tumbling solar power costs had changed the landscape.

But he said politicians needed to make a “breakthrough”, not count on negotiators to tackle contentious issues.

“Their job is to introduce square brackets and footnotes. Not to clarify, simply and solve,” he told journalists at the event.

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