China and India are right to phase out coal

The 26th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change ended in Glasgow, Scotland on November 13 without making any significant progress. It is not clear whether limiting the rise in global temperature to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius remains a practical goal. One participant is probably right: although there has been no progress, the process is not yet dead. We hang in there.

Western countries can never be the bad guys. The United States has always been the crack in the armor of the West. But when former President Barack Obama brought it into the Paris Agreement, everything was forgotten. And now that sitting US President Joe Biden has once again embarked on climate multilateralism, not to mention “ambitious greening” of his own country, it looks like the developed world is really the right guy.

But there must be some bad guys there, so the two most populous countries, which very often express the concerns of the countries of the South, are cited as the bad guys of COP 26. In fact, China and India have been the quintessential fall guys on the coal issue.

It would be relevant to underline a point that environmentalists and climatologists have reiterated many times in the past, especially since the signing of the Paris Agreement. The world community has shredded the multilateral climate framework put in place under the Kyoto Protocol with one goal in view: to get the United States to sign a global agreement to limit global warming and fight climate change. This defended some of the key principles enshrined in the Kyoto Protocol: the issue of historical accountability; and resulting in the concept of shared but differentiated responsibilities.

Thus, after the Paris Agreement, it was no longer true that the developed world, which had emitted an extremely high volume of greenhouse gases (GHG) and thus monopolized “the space of emissions”, would have alone binding responsibilities. At the end of COP 26, there was a backlash against this kind of thinking.

The agreement reached between the two biggest emitters in the world, China and the United States, at the midpoint of the November 10 conference to quickly update the objectives of the Paris Agreement by working together to maintain global warming well below 2 ° C seemed to be a game changer. But soon many realized that the deal was big on intentions but woefully short on details, as virtually every multilateral negotiation has been done so far, from Rio de Janeiro in 1992 to Copenhagen in 2009 and Paris in 2015 to Glasgow in 2021.

In addition, a statement made by the President’s special envoy for climate, John Kerry, is significant. “If we reach our goal of 30% methane reduction by 2030,” said Kerry, “that’s equivalent to taking all the cars in the world, all the trucks in the world, all the planes in the world. the world, all the ships in the world, down to zero. This is how he is tall. That’s what’s on the table.

But since carbon dioxide accounts for 76 percent of all GHGs and methane only 16 percent, Kerry’s statement is somewhat incomprehensible. It also raises suspicion that the commitment of the Global North, especially the United States, to make structural changes to its economies with the aim of drastically reducing, if not completely stopping, the use of oil is suspect.

This brings us to the question of coal, the other fossil fuel that the world must stop using to achieve net zero emissions, say, by 2050, a commitment made by the United States and the European Union.

As Glasgow approaches, after a global coal crisis hit many countries, China, which along with India suffered power outages, issued a statement saying there should be a better balance between development and emission reduction. This overhaul would include a recalibration of its thermal energy use plans.

Although India has not made any categorical statement, the facts speak for themselves. The country produces 70 percent of its electricity from coal, a large part of which it imports. A rapid abandonment of coal is not possible if industrial production is to grow at a decent rate. The switch to renewable energies will take time. As for China, it produces more than 55% of its electricity from coal.

Flippant remarks aside, the imperatives of growth in general and industrial production in particular prevent the sudden switch of the two countries to renewable energies.

It is in this context that we must see the insistence of India and China for the wording of the coal clause of the Glasgow document to be changed. To recap, the confabulations in Glasgow had to go into overtime because the text of the final declaration had not been approved on November 12, the last day scheduled. In the final declaration, the term “phase-out” of coal was replaced by that of coal “phase-out”.

Both countries have been criticized for causing the turnaround, although many agree it is a matter of semantics, as coal is on the way out anyway. Still, COP 26 President Alok Sharma said the world was on the verge of “making coal history”, so India and China should explain to climate-vulnerable countries why they did. what they did. But the point is, India and China are also climate vulnerable countries.

The point that Western Europe and the United States do not understand is that India, China and a host of other countries cannot just drop coal by chance, because it is at the heart of not only of their development paradigm, but also of the way life is lived there.

For the West, it’s the same with oil. The phasing out of oil would be a big step towards carbon neutrality. Will this be an acceptable target for the United States, when the world comes together in Egypt in November 2022 for COP 27?
Source: China Daily


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