Outcomes of COP 21: Debrief from Paris

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    On January 12, 2016, Observer Research Foundation organised a panel discussion on “Outcomes of COP 21: Debrief from Paris”. The discussion focused upon the recently concluded Conference of Parties 21 (COP 21) climate conference which was held in Paris from November 30 to  December 12, 2015. The event brought together experts from government, academia and research to shed a light on the outcomes of COP 21 and its implications for global energy and climate policy.

    Giving the opening address, ORF Director Sunjoy Joshi stressed upon the importance of  COP 21 for developed as well as developing countries. He argued that after a decade, the global fraternity is going to look back at 2015 as the landmark year which created a platform for the post fossil-fuel world. He suspected India would be the first country in the world to industrialise without relying on fossil fuels. Finally, he affirmed that Paris Agreement has raised hopes of the global community towards initiating an extensive climate action plan. The discussion was carried forward by Dr. Vikrom Mathur, who asked the panelists to come up with their perspectives on the outcome of Paris Conference and describe whether the politics of global climate change has shifted after COP 21.

    Prof. Lavanya Rajamani began the discussion by affirming that the Paris Conference can be deemed a success or a failure depending upon the benchmark one uses to evaluate it. Revealing her role as part of the COP 21 Secretariat, she considered the outcomes from Paris as a tremendous achievement. She continued to underline some the most striking features of this Conference – more ambitious than previous Conferences on Climate Change, has a stronger top-down element than expected, much greater differentiation in terms of responsibility and far stronger provisions on finance than its predecessors. She also noted the ambitious direction of travel embedded in the Paris Agreement given the five yearly stock take where countries are required to submit a progression on their climate action plans.

    On the issue of architecture, she maintained that a new framework has to be built which will include all information provided by the parties. She confirmed that there will be technical expert reviews of the data every after five year, which will look into the achievement of each country in terms of finance, progress and equity and find the scope and area for improvement, thereby providing a comprehensive feedback to each country so that they may fill the loop before next review. She was hopeful of the development that we are now moving towards a more unified transparency system against the present bifurcated system.

    Mr. C. Dasgupta, a former diplomat, being the next distinguished speaker, continued the discussion and shed light upon some of the previous international legislations on Climate Change, including the Vienna Convention and Kyoto Protocol. He drew attention to the sharp change in the balance of power since the beginning of this millennium. He remarked that till the time Kyoto Protocol was signed, the OECD countries were sure of retaining the leadership, however, it never became reality as the global balance of economic power changed in the 21st century, wherein, countries like China developed exponentially. A legal regime with clear sharp differentiation between obligations of developed and developing countries did not suit their commercial interests anymore.

    However, he termed the Paris Conference as a successful attempt on the issue of Common But Differentiated Responsibility (CBDR). He insisted that in the Framework Convention, specific shape was given in Article 4, which lays down respective commitments of the developed and developing countries. He felt that India is going to be affected more than any developing country in this world, because India is the poorest of all developing countries in the world today. Moreover, China’s peaking period for emissions is 2030, but for India, it lies in the distant future. He drew attention of the audience to the World Energy Outlook 2015, wherein there is a special section and a special report on India, as India is cause of concern for global community. He also stressed that a number of factors are going to affect India’s compliance with the Paris agreement, like the Nationally Determining Contribution (NDC), development of new technologies in the sphere of energy and the extent of depreciating costs of renewable energy. He also related the rapid development of infrastructure in India to the carbon targets we have committed, as the Indian economy will shift to a more carbon intensive system with the potential success of the ‘Make in India’ programme.

    Mr. J. M. Mauskar, concluded the discussion by recalling India’s firm stance at the UNCCC, Durban in 2011 wherein India was firm on the issue of not accepting any prospective binding treaty on Climate Change without knowing each and every provision in detail. He lauded the efforts of the Asian Group, Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform, which did a commendable job in developing mutual reassurance between the developed and developing countries. Recalling from his own experience, he apprised the gathering about how this group played a phenomenal role in saving the Intended Nationally Determining Contributions (INDC), because for countries like India, INDC was also about technology and finance, besides mitigation.

    He also underlined the eternal challenge before the Indian government in order to fulfill its obligations with respect to COP 21, which is the seamless transfer between National Action Plan and the State Action Plan. In the end, he laid emphasis on technology and its role in facilitating ambition in climate action.

    The discussion ended with a Q&A session in which some very legitimate points and concerns were raised by the experts among the audience. Thanking the panelists for their contributions, Dr Vikrom Mathur called upon everyone to keenly follow the developments in the post-Paris era.

    (This report was prepared by Abhimanyu Singh, Research Intern, Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi.)

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