United States Of America (US) | Centre for Science and Environment

United States Of America (US)


Intolerance in Paris: an opinion by Sunita Narain

As I write this, it is two days to the endgame at the Paris climate conference. Despite problems, everybody is clear that there will be an agreement. Let me explain why 

As I write this, it is two days to the endgame at the Paris climate conference. There has been little breakthrough on the contentious issues that elude an agreement, but still everybody is clear that there will be an agreement.

I am beginning to understand why they are so confident. Let me explain.

US Matters

Why should we look at the US to check out its climate action plan? The fact is that the US is the world’s largest historical contributor to greenhouse gas emissions—the stock that is already in the atmosphere and already warming the earth’s surface—and the second largest contributor (after China) to annual emissions. What the US does makes a huge difference to the world’s fight against runaway climate change. It will also force others to act. It is, after all, the leader.

Last call to get climate deal right

The Indian government must not use “equity” to block climate change negotiations. It must be proactive on equity and put forward a position on how to operationalise the sharing of the carbon budget—accounting for countries’ contribution to past emissions and allocating future space—in climate talks.

I wrote this last year when the UPA government was in power. I am repeating this as the NDA government prepares for the next conference of parties (CoP) to be held in December in Peru.

Ozone-smart, climate-cool

One item on the agenda of the much-discussed Narendra Modi-Barack Obama meeting that has Indian commentators flummoxed is hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). The joint statement issued after the meeting of the two heads of states says rather ambiguously that the two sides agreed to cooperate on “next steps to tackle the challenge posed by HFCs to global warming.”

Change of climate in the US

Climate change has a surprising new follower: the US president. The US government has been the biggest bugbear in climate change negotiations. Since discussions began on this issue in the early 1990s, the US has stymied all efforts for an effective and fair deal. It has blocked action by arguing that countries like China and India must first do more. Worse, successive governments have even denied that the threat from a changing climate is real, let alone urgent.

Coal politics in an unequal world

Australia is a coal country. It is big business—miners are important in politics and black gold exports dominate the country’s finances. But dirty and polluting coal evokes emotions in environmentally concerned people. Coal-based power provides 40 per cent of the world’s electricity and emits one-third of global carbon dioxide, which is pushing the world to climate change. 

Loud and unclear

Does the Indian government’s loud voice in international negotiations produce results? At the recent WTO meet in Bali, the Indian government went all guns blazing to defend the rights of its farmers and to ensure food security for millions of poor. It opposed the Agreement on Agriculture that limits government food procurement at 10 per cent of the value of total production, based on the prices of late 1980s. It said this clause would impinge on its right to offer farmers a supportive price and to procure food stocks for its food safety programme.

Solar energy not war

  If you know that a sector has arrived when it makes for trade wars between countries, then solar energy clearly has. Last year, the US imposed anti-dumping duties on Chinese imports of solar panels; now the EU has proposed the same. The Chinese have in turn threatened that they will take action against European exports of poly-silicon, the material used for manufacturing solar panels. In February this year, the US filed a case against India at the World Trade Organization (WTO) for “favouring sourcing of panels from domestic manufacturers”.

Solar energy not war

 If you know that a sector has arrived when it makes for trade wars between countries, then solar energy clearly has. Last year, the US imposed anti-dumping duties on Chinese imports of solar panels; now the EU has proposed the same. The Chinese have in turn threatened that they will take action against European exports of poly-silicon, the material used for manufacturing solar panels. In February this year, the US filed a case against India at the World Trade Organization (WTO) for “favouring sourcing of panels from domestic manufacturers”.

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