On Saturday the 12th of December a Climate Change Agreement was reached at COP21 (21st Conference of the Parties) by all 195 countries. The agreement aims to hold increases in the global average temperature to “well below 2°C and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.” This agreement will come into effect in 2020 and replace the Kyoto Protocol.
COP21’s particularly significant goal was to reach a legally-binding agreement on carbon emissions that would keep global warming under two degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels by 2100; warming greater than two degrees by that point is predicted to have catastrophic effects on agricultural systems, among other global impacts. In addition to its high vulnerability to the effects of climate change, agriculture is also a major source of global GHG) emissions, contributing around 25 percent of global emissions.
India played an important part in the development of an agreement and contributed to the achievement of a number of important compromises. India pursued the inclusion of the phrase common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR), which recognizes the different national circumstances of developed and developing countries. This concept “obliges” developed countries to recognize their greater historical contributions to climate change and take the lead in climate change mitigation and adaption. This is important for India, as well as most developing countries, as it currently has low per capita emissions compared to other countries; this provides the country with “carbon space” to allow its emissions to grow in the medium term as the country develops.
The Paris agreement also provides a non-legally binding commitment for developed countries to provide $100 billion a year to developing countries for adaptation and mitigation initiatives by 2020. During COP21, the Government of India had expressed criticism on the amount of funding available in the Green Climate Fund and the inability of developed countries to abide to previous financing commitments. The Green Climate Fund, created at COP16, has the goal of mobilizing $100 billion (USD) per year by 2020 from developed to developing countries for adaptation and mitigation projects, a large proportion of which is intended to go to the agricultural sector. India has criticized the commitments of richer nations to this fund claiming that only $6 billion of the alleged $60 billion have been made available.
FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva welcomed the agreement, saying that "for the first time ever, food security features in a global climate change accord.” The most significant statement related to food production is in Article 2 stating that: “increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production.” Furthermore the FAO highlights that agriculture factors prominently in most of the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) which suggests that the agreement will support the agricultural sector against changes in the climate.
Despite the general positive reactions to the agreement a number of Indian actors have highlighted that the final agreement does not do enough to halt climate change. The Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) labelled the agreement "weak and unambitious" commenting that it does not include any "meaningful" targets and has discharged developed nations from their historical responsibility. By contrast, India’s environment minister Prakash Javadekar cautiously welcomed the agreement but stated that: "the actions of developed countries are far below their historical responsibilities and fair shares.”
Ashok Lavasa, a member of India’s COP21 team and an official of India’s Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change, recently argued that India’s INDC (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions) is one of the most comprehensive because it puts forward mitigation as well as adaptation targets. By contrast, most other countries have only focused on mitigation-centric targets. Lavasa argues that other countries, especially developed countries, need to further expand their INDC.
Due to the susceptibility of the Indian agricultural sector to climate change it is crucial for the Indian agricultural sector as well as the livelihoods of millions of Indians that this agreement will translate into effective Climate Change action. For instance, A recent report released on December 2nd by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water, a research institution based in India, highlights that without climate change action India requires an additional $1 trillion USD in adaptation financing. The report stresses that due to the dependence of the majority of Indians on the agricultural sector, this is the sector in which most adaptation needs to occur. Despite significant growth in adaptation financing in India, up to $91 billion in 2013/2014, the report argues that this would need to increase to $360 billion a year by 2030 in order to overcome the adaptation financing gap. The full report can be accessed here.
The final agreement can be found on the UNFCCC website.
BY: Bas Paris, IFPRI