The Paris Agreement to battle the climate crisis marks its fifth year with renewed hope and renewed urgency. The hope lies in the knowledge that the world’s largest economy, the United States (US), will rejoin the Paris pact next month. The urgency lies in the recognition that the agreement does not go far enough in keeping the world average temperature increase below the 2 degree Celsius danger mark. India can hold its head up high. The Narendra Modi government’s ambitious renewable energy programme has meant India will easily surpass its carbon emission commitments under the Paris agreement. Equally telling, a consortium of green think tanks recently declared India the only 2C compatible major economy in the world.
Despite the agreement, the world experienced its highest temperatures over the past five years. Even a pandemic-induced economic lockdown only reduced carbon emissions by seven per cent. The coming task, as all governments recognise, is how to go beyond Paris. The decision of the US, Brazil and others to ignore their Paris commitments is a reminder that large, cumbersome multilateral agreements are not necessarily the only or even the best way to curb carbon. The return of the US opens the gate for large-scale financial and technological assistance for the renewable goals of countries such as India. And innovative ways to accomplish this bilaterally or otherwise will define global green policy in the coming decade.
New Delhi must know the global green transformation will not be all smooth. Green technology will determine future global economic competitiveness. The European Union (EU) plans to introduce carbon tariffs next year and merge climate policy with trade wars. Working out the proper political equations will be as important as setting out market-friendly incentives at home to ensure investment flows down the proper green channels. The largest corporations of the world have already begun putting their money on a green future. Eleven of the Group of 20 countries have declared net zero carbon targets, with China, EU and Japan among the most recent economies to do so. Climate now has far greater public acceptance across the world than it has ever had — and the shock and awe of the Paris accord contributed to this new green consensus. But India must be ready for a new world of climate that will be as much about cooperation as it will be about competition.