It’s been FOUR days since the annual conference on climate change started in Doha, Qatar, but it has barely registered a blip on the Indian media radar. Compare it to the 2009 Copenhagen summit when the general belief was that disaster would befall if a comprehensive and global agreement was not arrived at. Despite the presence of over 110 heads of states on its last two days — certainly one of the biggest such congregations ever — Copenhagen had ended in a big disappointment.
The following three years have seen a rapid reduction in both the ambitions of and expectations from international climate negotiations. Almost all the targets considered essential then have been dropped or deferred. It is no surprise then that there is a lack of enthusiasm about the Doha talks, including among the Indian negotiators. The main objective seems to be not what India can gain but what it can avoid losing.
What, however, is more worrying is that the dip in interest has rubbed on to actions that New Delhi takes on its own. In the middle of 2008, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had launched the National Action Plan on Climate Change, containing eight ‘missions’ with sectoral targets. That document is cited at every international platform as India’s commitment to finding a solution to climate change. Four and a half years down the line, little has been achieved. Except for two ‘missions’ — on solar energy and energy efficiency — there has been little activity.
What is worse, there is confusion on such basic issues like whether India should focus more on mitigation — that is, cutting greenhouse gas emissions — or adaptation. Mitigation efforts would put constraints on India’s economic growth path and its effect would not be India-specific, but there is a faint hope of extracting a better deal from international negotiations in terms of technology. On the other hand, the benefits of an adaptation-centric approach would accrue to the country only.
Considering the way talks have progressed, there is little expectation from Doha. But low expectations often deliver better results. Many of the participants at Doha would be hoping that is the case.
Amitabh is a senior assistant editor based in Delhi