Demystifying COP26: Key takeaways and future roadmap for India

10 Dec 2021 10 Dec 2021
Amaltas Hall, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi

TERI organized a high-level panel discussion with the key members of the Indian delegation to COP26 on December 10, 2021 to share the key outcomes and shed light on the future roadmap to achieve the targets laid out by India.

The Proceedings for the event can be viewed below-

Panelists/Speakers

  • Dr Vibha Dhawan, Director General, TERI
  • Mr R. R. Rashmi, Distinguished Fellow, TERI
  • Mr Manjeev Puri, Distinguished Fellow, TERI
  • Mr Mahendra Singhi, MD & CEO, Dalmia Cement (Bharat) Ltd. & COP26 Business Leader
  • Mr Srinivas Gotru, Joint Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India
  • Ms Chandni Raina, Economic Adviser, Ministry of Finance, Government of India
  • Ms Himangana Gupta, Consultant, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India
  • Mr Abhishek Kaushik, Former Fellow & Area Convenor, TERI

Welcome Remarks

The event started with the welcome address by Dr Vibha Dhawan, Director General, TERI, who welcomed all esteemed panelists and participants. She stressed on the need for collective climate action by all the countries for achieving the Paris Goals. This was in light of the fact that the commitments (in terms of Nationally Determined Contributions [NDCs]) did not come close to limiting global warming to 1.5°C yet. Sharing the announcements made by India, she emphasized that the country has taken ambitious goals and will require adequate support from the developed countries. She mentioned that the major focus of COP26 was on net zero targets of all the countries and the importance of technology development and collaboration. The need for capacity building in different sectors and at all levels for the transition to a net-zero economy was also highlighted.

She thanked European Climate Foundation (ECF), Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), MacArthur Foundation, and Bloomberg Philanthropies for supporting TERI's work on climate policy research and advocacy.

Followed by the DG’s address, Mr Manjeev Puri, Distinguished Fellow at TERI shared his perspective on the outcomes of COP26. He mentioned that India should be mindful in taking the ambitious climate action because India is in a unique position to compete with larger developing nations as global climate leaders. He expressed a major concern over climate finance He emphasized that when talking about financing developing countries, it is not about bartering, rather it is about an exchange that needs to be taken into consideration through collaboration. However, he mentioned that the talk of a 100 billion USD, which was discussed in Copenhagen, has no upgradation and the same conversations keep on happening year on year. He also added that India should be prepared for being part of global parties and need taxonomy, proper rules, and regulations. Hence, finance plays an important role for India as mentioned by Mr Manjeev Puri for taking climate actions.

Opening Presentation

Mr Abhishek Kaushik gave an opening presentation in which he mentioned that the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP26) brought together 120 world leaders and over 40,000 registered participants, including 22,274 party delegates, 14,124 observers, and 3886 media representatives. He presented the key outcomes of COP26 and their implications for India. Also, he emphasized on the takeaways from COP26 with a key focus on the issues of adaptation, finance, and transparency.

Panel Discussion

This was followed by a panel discussion, which was moderated by Mr R. R. Rashmi, Distinguish Fellow, TERI. He started by acknowledging the role of TERI and the presence of the key negotiators from the Indian delegation at COP26.

He went on to identify the key objective of COP26, which was to concentrate on renewed efforts towards containing global temperature rise to 1.5°C with a key focus on updating the 2030 NDCs. He termed the meeting as an ‘implementation COP’ as it would be followed by the actual implementation of the Paris Agreement. He also highlighted the following points as major takeaways of COP26:

  • Keeping the objective in mind, many countries did in fact enhance their NDCs but question still remains as to will it be enough to meet the target of 1.5°C. He reiterated that thought Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India, set about a huge momentum with the 2070 Net Zero target, Mr. Rashmi questioned whether this momentum continued throughout the 2 weeks.
  • Finance took the center stage at COP, as discussions held on contributions from the developed countries and the funds required by developing countries. He mentioned that some models of fund transfer are functional; however the Paris financial model of transfer is not effective and the flow of 100 billion dollars will not be possible given the current financial flow model. He said that the required financial flow cannot take place just by talking over the years and that the model needs to be changed. The finances need to be linked to the desired outcomes.
  • He questioned if declarations of net zero targets have actually enhanced current efforts enough. He emphasized the importance of transparency and reporting in the years to come for accountability. He mentioned the importance of roadmaps and the need for action and implementation following the commitments made.
  • He highlighted the importance of transparency as a tool for accountability. In this respect, he stated that India was able to protect its position with some flexibility, but lacks the capacity in terms of a system for reporting on exhaustive inventories.
  • Mr Rashmi stated that adaption efforts do not receive as much attention as mitigation does. Adaptation is especially important for developing countries and small island nations, which receive no financial support for loss and damage. However, talks have started on support from developed countries for the loss and damage faced by developing countries, but this requires more serious attention, he reported. He also mentioned about the work of CDRI and the launch of ‘Infrastructure for Resilient Island States’ (IRIS) initiative, which aims to provide technical support on the issues posed by infrastructure systems including promotion of disaster and climate resilience of infrastructure assets in small-island developing states.
  • On Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, parties agreed on the transitional arrangements from the Kyoto mechanism. However, he questioned, to what extent will this benefit developing countries? It is yet to be determined that to what capacity India will have to or be able to participate in the carbon markets of the future.

The next panelist was Mr Mahendra Singhi, MD & CEO, Dalmia Cement (Bharat) Ltd. and COP26 Business Leader, who gave his perspective on industry. He discussed his major takeaways on COP 26 and said it was quite successful. He has been attending the COP since the past 7 years and was part of a signatory committee in COP21. In his view, the major achievements from this COP are as follows:

  • Around 90% of countries in the world signed for ‘Net Zero Carbon Emission Target’, which was a big achievement. In his perspective, it was a relief when the Prime Minster of India, Shri Narendra Modi announced the net zero target for India by 2070.
  • He emphasized and acknowledged India’s role as a global leader in solar and mentioned the heightened focus on hydrogen as an emerging power source. He also added that if the internet can be accessed by everyone then electricity from renewable sources – solar and hydrogen – should not be too far in reaching every corners of the country.
  • He also talked about the significance of collaboration between developed and developing nations to support the developing nations in taking climate actions.
  • The discussions and announcements with respect to methane were another important highlight of COP26. More than 100 countries agreed to reduce more than 30% of methane by 2030. Though India was not part of this but it was an important announcement for global actions.
  • He mentioned about the discussions held around the 100 billion USD, which was promised by developed countries for climate finance and not delivered yet. He noted that this would happen in 2023. Furthermore, he emphasized the importance of carbon market, as he shared that many companies have earned carbon credits and sold them for Rs 45 crores, Rs 1000 crores, and so on. He stated that it is important to have appropriate mechanisms for carbon markets, which was a major focus of COP26, i.e., Article 6. He gave his perspective on the same, which is as follows:

    Further, Mr Srinivas Gotru, Joint Secretary of Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, who was also part of the delegation to COP26 from India shared his perspective on COP26, which are as follows:

    Ms Chandini Raina, Economic Adviser, Ministry of Finance, Government of India discussed that the COP26 discussions/agreements could be taken as either a ‘glass half full, or glass half empty’ scenario. However, according to her, the COP26 was ‘glass half full’ as earlier there were no agreements or proper directions with respect to climate finance. She expounded two main concerns related to climate finance. The first concern was about transparency, for which she said, “there is a lack of clarity on how reporting was to be carried out. The calculations that are supposed to be made for reporting had no justification about how it was to be done, what procedure was to be followed, if there was any green washing, etc.” She also emphasized streamlining of reporting, as different reports emerge with different information, for instance Oxford or OECD have different methodologies regarding reporting the allocation of climate finance. The second concern, she mentioned, was the importance of enhanced financial support over a period of time from developed countries to developing countries, as the target that was set to 100 billion USD per year was not met on the promised timeline.

    Further, she discussed that the glass was half full in this COP because of a few reasons. Firstly, the developed nations accepted to give $100 billion by 2023. Secondly, by COP27 there will be clarity and transparency in finance reporting as four meetings prior to the conference will take place. The meetings will be focused on elucidating where the process should flow and how the allocation of funds should be reported. Lastly, she informed that the Standing Committee of Finance (SCF) will work on the transparency of finance reporting and set a definition of climate finance. She affirmed that COP26 was a successful event.

    Then, Ms Himangana Gupta, Consultant, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India spoke about the importance of looking into the past to see how far we have come or what has not been addressed yet. She mentioned that the issue of equity still has not been addressed (equity with respect to emissions, financial support, etc.). She stressed on the need to better understand climate finance and its flow. She reiterated that the 100 billion dollars are yet to be received, which is a matter of a ‘deep regret’ for the UN parties. Further, she stated that the important discussions around the Santiago Network on Loss and Damage held at the conference was a successful start. Also, she said, “developed countries did not want to be held accountable and finance technical assistance but stick to facilitating humanitarian aid and assistance… The developed countries should have reached net zero by 2025 being Annex 1 countries and should have reached their emission targets.” In the end, she highlighted that India is well below its allotted carbon budget, has been meeting its targets, and is on the track to meeting its revised NDCs.

    • Firstly, for an industrial transition, coalition and cooperation between government and industry are required to avail financial and technological support.
    • Secondly, it would be ideal if a technology hub could be created by the support of global climate funds or there could be creation of new funds.
      • He noted that nature-based solutions were also an important point of discussion at the COP26 and India could play an important role in this respect. India has plenty of waste land available, which could be converted into green lands with effective action plan.
      • He also shared his views on the importance of carbon tax and stated that 60% of the countries agreed on regulations for carbon tax or carbon pricing by 2030 is a significant development. He also discussed about India’s announcement to not to phase-out but phase-down coal.
      • He discussed about the ‘Great Voice of Youngsters’ or the active involvement of the youth as an important aspect at COP. He said that it is important to listen to the youth as they are the future and have to face the real challenges if mitigation actions are not taken now. It is important to spread awareness from schools, so that students are inherited with the values of saving the environment, he added.
      • Lastly, he talked about ‘NDC’s by 2022’ that every country is supposed to update by COP 27.
      • He stated that the outcomes of the COP26 are about bringing in technical changes. COVID-19 has introduced technical issues that are needed to be addressed, he mentioned.
      • He said that going into COP26 there was a lot of expectation to enhance NDCs, commit to net-zero targets by not just countries but also the public and private sectors.
      • Many important decisions were made during the conference he informed, including the global methane pledge, agreeing to phase out coal from the energy mix, and the first Global Stocktake to happen in 2023.
      • He also mentioned that India, among other countries, did not need to enhance their NDCs as they were ambitious enough, but they did, and in doing so set the tone for the meeting. Momentum created by India’s net zero announcements was a key driver in setting the mood of the COP for Indian negotiation. However, he raised the question of whether it will be enough to meet the 1.5°C target.
      • He also added that the IPCC Report also enhanced the sense of urgency in the run up to the COP26.
      • He stated that India was able to make all its concerns addressed and that there was progress made in certain areas whereas some need more work. India was able to hold its ground and put forward their agenda, especially for Article 6, he mentioned.
      • Further, he emphasized that the discussions at COP26 highlighted the need for a sustainable lifestyle. The outcomes of the COP set up a sense of stability for policy direction. He ended by stating that the discussions and decisions around Article 6 and transparency reporting were the most important outcomes of COP26.
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Climate agreements
Climate change
Climate policy

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