SUBJECT :Climate Change 
After two weeks of hectic negotiations, bilateral meetings through several sleep-deprived nights, back-room chats and huddles, India's negotiating team for the climate talks can take a bow.

Arriving at a consensus document endorsed by all 196 signatories to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change necessitates compromise. Yet, India has managed to protect its core non-negotiable interest -the space to develop.

Ahead of the Paris talks, and through the initial days, India had come under attack for its continued reliance on coal for energy. This, despite the plan of sevenfold increase in its renewable energy portfolio by 2022, and further increase by 2030, a goal it set for itself in the climate action plan it submitted to the United Nations' climate change body.

India had made it clear that given its increasing energy demands, turning its back on coal would not be an option. At the same time, it clarified that it was committed to an increase in the use of clean energy and clean technology. "We have made it very clear that solar and wind are our first commitment. Hydro, nuclear -all of these non-carbon sources are what we will develop to the largest extent that we can.What cannot be met by these will be met by coal," said Ajay Mathur, a senior Indian negotiator. India had also said that it was willing to accelerate the offtake of renewable energy provided adequate financial flows were made possible.

This sentiment finds reflection in the agreement adopted on Saturday.In stating its aim, the agreement says that countries will work towards holding the temperature increase to "well below 2 degrees Cel sius above pre-industrial levels" and "pursue efforts" to contain temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial level. To this end, countries will work towards "making financial flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development."

This marks another win for India.The government was clear that it would not support an agreement that made "decarbonisation" its aim, as that would aim, as that would put the country's coal-powered energy in jeopardy. India was comfortable with "low emissions pathway." "The aim is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and carbon pollution, not present an obstacle to development," said a senior negotiator.

Perhaps the biggest gain for India is the manner in which the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities", which is part of the 1992 UN Climate Convention, has now been elucidated to set out the differential levels of obligation, whether it is about reducing emissions, providing funds to tackle climate change, or the kind of information on implementation of climate action plans. Or, as Lavanya Rajamani, the international law expert and professor at the Delhibased think tank Centre for Policy Research, put it, the Paris Agreement "firmly anchors differentiation" for developing countries.

This is no small gain for India. As India expands its manufacturing base through its `Make in India' programme, urbanises, builds infrastructure, ensures energy access for all its people, its emissions are bound to rise and it will need to invest more. Having a lower level of obligation will provide room for growth while taking measures to reduce emissions and tackle the impact of climate change.

Source: December 15, 2015, The Economic Times