Sunday, August 14, 2011

Indian Perspective on Climate Change

I've been at the workshop on Equity, Sustainability, and Climate Change organized by the Centre for Science, Technology and Society at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Delhi over the last two days. The meeting was attended by both academics, NGOs, and government officials including a speech by the environment minister. It has been interesting to hear different perspectives on the climate change issue than I usually hear from Australians, Europeans, Americans, and Chinese. Though mentioned by some Chinese, there is a much stronger emphasis on historical responsibility for emissions in the context of a "carbon space" or "carbon budget" model. Developed countries have used up much of the available space in the atmosphere to absorb carbon dioxide and the question is how can the developing countries develop with the little remaining available space in the next few decades if we are to stay within a 2C maximum warming. There is still debate about whether there should be another round of Kyoto commitments or whether the "bottom up" or "pledge and review" framework that emerged from Copenhagen can be accepted. It was pointed out that it was the BASIC countries (Brazil, South Africa, India, and China) that got together with the US at Copenhagen to introduce this regime, so they can hardly complain now. And many seem to accept that Kyoto is dead and at least China has to be in any new agreement in order to have the slightest chance of the getting the Americans on board. Mukul Sanwal stated that China looks like announcing a unilateral cap on per capita emissions, perhaps at the Durban meeting and that this will change the whole game. There was a lot of exasperation with the US and amazement that they could almost default on their debt obligations just because they can't agree with each other internally.

There were also several presentations on the costs of climate mitigation, lead off by my paper on alternative cost measures. We found that the alternative approaches came to the same conclusion - that even a $50 a tonne CO2 tax is very low and would prompt switching to renewable energy on a large scale or substantial abatement in the short-term.

I met a lot of new people. Several, such as , Sivan Kartha, were at the IPCC meeting in Korea but I didn't happen to meet them there.

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