Tanvi Misra is a staff writer for CityLab covering immigrant communities, housing, economic inequality, and culture. She also authors Navigator, a weekly newsletter for urban explorers (subscribe here). Her work also appears in The Atlantic, NPR, and BBC.
COP21’s success hinges on an agreement between the haves and have-nots.
Each of the 195 countries being represented at the two-week long Paris climate talks are coming to the table with their own baggage. Many developing ones, for example, have felt that the burden of corrective measures to combat climate change has long fallen on them—even though they have fewer economic resources and more pressing economic priorities. Bridging this divide between the “haves” and the “have-nots” at the 2015 climate change talks will arguably be one of the biggest hurdles to consensus.
India has been a particularly vocal member of the “have-not” camp. Here are The New York Times:
For years, India has been viewed as an intransigent outlier in global climate-change talks. Indian leaders have long argued that their priority was lifting a vast population out of poverty, and that this could not be done swiftly without the rapid expansion of coal-fired power, the largest contributor to greenhouse gas pollution. They also maintain that rich countries like the United States bear moral responsibility for global warming and should not deny poor countries the chance to build their economies.
India is the third-largest greenhouse gas emitting country in the world (although its per capita emissions are just one-third of the global average). Its cities are some of the most polluted ones. New Delhi, for example, has air quality that’s twice as toxic as Beijing’s, according to a 2014 WHO report.
But while the country clearly stands to gain a lot from cutting down emissions, its politicians and economists argue that it’s not economically feasible for them to do so—at least not without financial help. Some economists have gone so far as to argue that asking India to replacing coal as an energy source is “carbon imperialism,” and will “spell disaster” for its economy. Ahead of the Paris talks, the country pledged that it would cut down its sizable “emission intensity” by up to 35 percent and reduce its heavy dependence on coal as an energy source by up to 40 percent by 2030, but only if richer countries subsidize these efforts.
"You can't bully India, the message is clear. Developed countries need to provide carbon space to developing countries," Mr Javadekar told NDTV, calling remarks by US Secretary of State John Kerry "unfair". "We will not be opposing but we will be proposing real changes needed to ensure we have balanced growth and balanced environment. There should be a durable agreement and we need to trust each other," he said.
At the 2009 climate talks in Copenhagen, richer countries did respond to the grievances of India and others by promising to raise a $100 billion dollars a year by 2020 to help poorer ones become cleaner and greener. But India’s environment minister has dismissed this amount as “reparations,” according to The New York Times, arguing it’s not nearly enough. (India says it needs at least $2.5 trillion to implement its 2030 climate change goals.)
Even if $100 billion were the amount that countries settled on during the ongoing Paris talks, how this money will be raised remains an open question. One UN climate expert recently said there’s “no credible road map” to that sum. Then again, if the Paris talks end without some sort of solution, everyone loses—most of all the children growing up in the most polluted cities in the world.