What are the two climate declarations India has been hesitant to sign at COP28?

What are the two climate declarations India has been hesitant to sign at COP28?
India shares an often odd, yet powerful presence among the COP nations. Despite being classified as a 'developing nation' according to a 1992 UN Climate Change Framework, we've achieved massive national growth since. As a result, now we contribute to a significant portion of global emissions contributing to the climate crisis, though our per capita emissions remain among the lowest in the world.

These economic and political realities entail some interesting, and often conflicting, issues when it comes to global consensus.

Differences over the loss and damage fund

For example, consider the loss and damage fund that aims to provide financial assistance to the poorer nations struck by climate-related disasters such as flooding or sea level rise. India being one of the most vulnerable countries to the harsher impacts of climate change, has been demanding compensation from the developed world through such funds for decades.

But now, many developed nations stress that India and China, despite their three-decade-old classification, must actively contribute to the loss and damage fund rather than availing funds from it.

The climate blame game has carried on for a while now, and India and China now stand behind the argument that their high levels of emissions — currently about 40% of total global levels, with China accounting for three-quarters — are a much recent development, and therefore aren't as responsible for the state of the crisis as developed countries such as the US and the UK.


Nevertheless, fifteen developed countries have already pledged significant amounts towards the fund, pooling into a total of $660 million so far. This also includes the COP28 host United Arab Emirates, which was also classified as a developing country as per the 1992 UN Framework.

Phase out or phase down

This, of course, isn't the first time India has fallen in the middle of climate drama either. At COP26 Glasgow, India rallied to change the term from 'phase-out' to 'phase-down' our dependence on coal. India's announcement was met with much criticism from developed nations that insist developing nations must also participate similarly in the mitigation efforts. However, the climate ambiguity among industrialised countries is evident in their selected targeting of coal even as they continue to invest heavily on other forms of fossil fuels.

India argued that a complete stop to coal could significantly hinder our country's development — a stance many developing nations echoed.

Nevertheless, India presented its 'Panchamrit', or five pillars of planned climate action, during COP26, which included reaching the ambitious 500GW non-fossil energy capacity by 2030. Amazingly, despite the naysayers, analyses have shown that India remains one of the few major economies actually on track to meet their Paris Agreement goals on time.

Second, its about the renewables

This time, a whopping 118 countries have pledged to triple installed renewable energy capacity by 2030. This move, prescribed by the International Energy Agency, might help heal the climate change scab faster. But India has refrained from adhering to the supremely pertinent cause. China, boasting the world's largest renewable energy capacity, also did not sign on.

India has close to 170 GW of installed renewable power already, meaning agreeing to this Global Renewables and Energy Efficiency Pledge would overshoot our already ambitious 500GW target. Moreover, as India has already invested heavily on renewable energy, our base is considerably higher than most industrialised countries that are already quite late to the party!

While disheartening for many, since we had initially pioneered the tripling at the recent G20 summit earlier this year, others remain hopeful that we will eventually come around by the end of the two-week-long conference.

Un-healthy developments

The second bit of controversy revolves around Health Day at COP28, aiming to answer how we can reduce the climate change-related burden on human health, such as the problem of increasing heat deaths. In a bid to curb greenhouse gas emissions in the health sector, 123 countries signed on to the COP28 Declaration on Climate and Health.

However, India, which helped develop the Declaration, was not one of the countries that readily agreed to the declaration. India argued that the current draft emphasised a commitment to reduce GHGs for cooling applications in healthcare facilities, which could be difficult with the growing demand for medical services in the country.

The health sector is a carbon-intensive one, and the Declaration seeks to curb emissions and reduce waste from health systems in a way that would contribute better to our overarching climate goals.

While complex, these negotiations highlight how difficult it is to achieve a balance between national priorities and climate requirements, especially when one is not the primary culprit but a disproportionate victim of this global crisis.