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Q&A with Lavanya Rajamani on India and climate change
India is a country everyone wants to know about, no less in the climate change mitigation space.
I recently spoke to Professor Lavanya Rajamani from the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi, an independent research institute and policy think tank, about this topic.
Lavanya requires little introduction to the international climate change community, where she has been active since 1997 in a number of roles, including as a negotiator for the Alliance of Small Island States during the negotiations for the Marrakech Accords, and as a legal advisor to the Chair of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long term Cooperative Action under the FCCC – the inter-governmental group tasked with arriving at an agreed outcome on climate change post-2012 – in the lead up to the Copenhagen climate talks in 2009.
A prolific author, she has written on legal issues relating to the environment, international law, and human rights in the world's top academic journals and also sits on a number of editorial boards of such publications. Lavanya has also written working papers for the World Bank, UNFCCC, UN Development Programme and Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy. She holds a law degree from Yale and a PhD from Oxford and has worked in the environment and climate space since the late 1990s.
In India, she is a respected voice on addressing climate change.
Lavanya, thanks so much for doing this interview. I think there is huge demand for information on India in the climate change space and your thoughts will be valued by our readers. My first question for you is a broad one: How is India tackling climate change?
India has taken several measures in the recent past to address climate change. In 2008 India released a National Climate Change Action Plan, bringing together existing and proposed efforts at decarbonisation under eight national missions including solar energy; enhanced energy efficiency; sustainable habitats; water; the Himalayan ecosystem; sustainable agriculture; and strategic knowledge for climate change.
The relevant Ministries have since developed comprehensive mission documents detailing objectives, strategies, plan of action, timelines, and monitoring and evaluation criteria. There are several noteworthy initiatives contained in these missions, including: the creation of a market – a perform, achieve and trade mechanism – in energy savings certificates; the adoption of a target to generate 20,000 MW of solar power by 2022; and a commitment to double the area to be afforested in the next 10 years, taking the total to 20 million ha.
In addition, the Indian Government has announced a levy – a clean energy tax – of US$1 per ton on coal. State-level action plans on climate change are also in preparation. In Copenhagen, India committed to reducing the emissions intensity of its GDP by 20-25 per cent from 2005 levels by 2020. It has since inscribed this commitment under the Cancun Agreements.
Where does CCS fit into the picture?
India is cautious in its endorsement of CCS technology. There is recognition, both in official documents and statements, that CCS may well be relevant, but in the future. For now, the Indian government and influential scientists in India are of the view that CCS deployment is 'premature' or an 'option too far'. They identify numerous concerns with deploying CCS in India, including that: it is cost and power intensive; it reduces the efficiency of the plant; it is not yet commercially viable – and indeed has yet to be deployed commercially in the industrialised world; and there is insufficient research on leakage and other environmental and safety risks. Given these concerns, the key question, some argue, is not why India is reluctant to embrace such a technology, but why the industrialised world is insistent that India take CCS seriously at this early stage.
What is behind India’s particular position on CCS?
India’s domestic climate policy interventions can each be located squarely within the logic of a co-benefits approach – an approach that seeks first and foremost to exploit synergies between development and climate change. Given India’s development imperatives, it has chosen, as have other developing countries in the context of climate change, to channel its limited resources in areas which have significant co-benefits. Hence the emphasis in India’s domestic policy interventions on energy efficiency, conservation, and diversification of energy sources, with the promotion of renewable energies as an element. These interventions deliver climatic benefits, but also enhance energy security, lead to greater energy availability and access, and aid fuel development. CCS is likely to increase the cost of energy production, decrease the efficiency of the plant, and yield primarily (if not exclusively) climatic benefits. It does not fit within the logic of India’s chosen co-benefits approach.
What, if anything, would influence India’s adoption of the technology?
It is evident from India’s interventions in the multilateral climate negotiations that if India is to adopt CCS technology - a targeted mitigation action that entail significant costs, but does not fit within the logic of co-benefits - a deal will need to be reached on technology and finance.
How do you see the debate in India moving forward?
Thank you for your time Lavanya. Your insights are appreciated. I would like to encourage readers to post their own comments and questions to this blog, which we'll endevour to reply to.
Topics:Policy legal and regulation