India refutes allegations on ‘weakening’ Glasgow climate pact

“Merely read out a ‘consensus’ statement on the final day of the COP conference’

Rebutting allegations that it had weakened the Glasgow climate pact by having the final text of the agreement read that coal would be “phased down” instead of “phased out,” Indian officials said it had merely read out a ‘consensus’ statement agreed to by all countries on the final day of the COP conference.

India, the U.S. and China are three of the largest fossil fuel emitters in the world though India and China are far more dependent on coal than the U.S.

“‘Phase down’ [the term] came from U.S. and China joint statement and we tried to find a consensus. The Chair asked us to introduce the text and that is why we did,” said senior officials, who did not want to be named, adding that the blame for India was ‘unfair’.

COP President and Cabinet Minister in the U.K. Alok Sharma has said the change of text by India and China had left him “deeply frustrated”.

“We are on the way to consigning coal to history. This is an agreement we can build on. But in the case of China and India, they will have to explain to climate-vulnerable countries why they did what they did,” Mr. Sharma told The Guardian.

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U.S. climate envoy John Kerry, at the conclusion of the COP 26 on November 13, told reporters: “Did I appreciate we had to adjust one thing tonight in a very unusual way? No. But if we hadn’t done that, we wouldn’t have a deal. I’ll take ‘phase it down’ and take the fight into next year.”

“Fossil fuel includes natural gas which much of the developed world is dependent on, so why single out coal? They are just trying to make it hard for those dependent on coal while they themselves are using other fossil fuels,” an official said on Wednesday.

The sources also clarified that India has not yet decided on when it would update its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and clarified that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Panchamrit’ or five-fold declarations were only “targets for India”, not its commitment to the United Nations.

At the World Leaders Summit on Nov 2, Mr. Modi said India would be net zero by 2070, that India’s non-fossil energy capacity will reach 500 GW by 2030; it will meet 50% of its energy requirements with renewable energy by 2030; it will reduce its projected carbon emissions by a billion tonnes by 2030 and reduce the carbon intensity of its economy to less than 45%.

(Net zero is when a country’s carbon emissions are offset by taking out equivalent carbon from the atmosphere, so that emissions in balance are zero.)

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These were widely interpreted to mean that it would in the future constitute India’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), a voluntary target that countries commit to cut emissions. India last submitted its NDC in 2015 and was expected to, but not obliged to, update it in October before the Glasgow COP.

“Prime Ministers speech was not linked to NDCs, they were national goals. He spoke in non-technical jargon,” an official said.

The sources said when India updates its NDCs, they would reflect some of the goals the PM outlined, but also highlighted PM Modi’s statement that India would need $1 trillion to make this transition.

India said that it had consistently, through the conference stressed on the importance of climate finance and that the developed world had not delivered on a 11 year committment to provide $100 billion annually, a figure that didn’t capture the cost of what was needed by developing countries to mitigate and adapt to climate change and “had no scientific basis.”

The United Nations own assessment was that only $40 bn has come in so far and the consensus that 100bn will come in by end of 2025. “Climate finance has not been defined clearly- now a standing committee looking at it. We coordinated to ensure the finance agenda item is not closed. We will continue to persist on the finance track,” the official noted.

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