Tue. Dec 10th, 2019

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The UN Climate Action Summit concerns and possibilities

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Global Climate Action Summit, convened and energetically backed by the United Nations Secretary General which seeks to bring harmony between the hard economic and political calculus of nations with the popular youth mobilization favoring the climate actions.


  • The growing evidence of climate change scientific and experiential has spurred an upwelling of social action, notably among the youth.
  • It seeks to spur national pledges and action to address climate change in the face of mounting information that the community of nations is doing too little, and too late.

Concerns Associated:

  • Reports by scientific advisory group says that the five years since 2015 is set to be the warmest of any equivalent recorded period.
  • Rising sea level and oceans becoming 26% more acidic since the dawn of the Industrial era.
  • Delhi-like temperatures in summer across southern Europe
  • Hurricane Dorian rendered large parts of the Bahamas unliveable
  • Raging fires in the Amazon, central Africa and even Siberia.
  • The heat wave in France and Germany was made eight to 10 times more likely by climate change.
  • Yet, concentrations of carbon dioxide continue to rise, and current country pledges would not stem this increase even by 2030.
  • Scientists are increasingly able to link these individual events with climate change

A climate change disconnects with nationalist forces:

  • Nationalism in multiple countries has created a short-term, look-out-for-our-own mentality that is inimical to the global collective action needed to address climate change.
  • United States, President Donald Trump not only refuses to enhance actions, he has actively rolled back measures in the electricity sector and actions to limit methane emissions in the name of competitiveness.
  • In Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro has made it clear he sees environmental protections as limiting Brazilian business.
  • Nationalism in some countries makes it much harder to pursue aggressive action even in countries where the politics is more conducive.

Possibility for climate actions lies in two-track approach:

  1. Diplomatic pressure:
  • Countries have been urged to enhance their pledges for action made as part of the Paris Agreement, committing to lower future emissions.
  • The intention is to provide a platform for climate champions to step up and claim leadership of an important global agenda.
  • A number of small and mid-sized countries, including the United Kingdom, have already committed to achieving the objective of making their economies net carbon neutral by 2050.
  • By contrast, several large countries, notably the United States, Brazil, Australia, Canada, Japan and Mexico are reportedly not even going to participate in the event at a high level.
  • China and India have issued statements hinting that they are doing quite enough, and India has highlighted the need for enhanced finance if it is to do more.
  1. Action portfolios by real change in economies:
  • Furthering and accelerating an energy transition toward low-carbon energy, making cities more climate friendly and more resilient to climate disruption.
  • Starting the process of turning energy intensive sectors such as steel and cement more carbon friendly.
  • Promoting solar energy for energy security reasons
  • Making cities more liveable and making industries more efficient and therefore competitive.
  • These initiatives serve as a focal point for broader conversations including coalitions of business and researchers.

How India can approach:

  1. Advocacy:
  • It would help India not to be a status quo player in this context, but to argue for enhanced global collective action because of deeply vulnerable country to climate impacts.
  1. Renewable Energy:
  • India is justifiably recognised for promoting renewable energy, yet also muddies the waters by sending mixed signals on future coal use.
  • India has the potential to show the pathway to accelerating action on climate change even while pursuing its development interests.
  • A notable example is its energy efficiency track record, which helps limit greenhouse gases even while saving the nation energy.
  1. Domestic policy:
  • India needs domestic energy policies that are more clearly and coherently tuned to a future low carbon world.
  • Such a domestic message would position India to be a true global climate leader, rather than a leader only among climate laggards.


  • The UN Summit is likely to teach us hard lessons about climate politics in an era of nationalism.
  • The pathway to enhanced action is unlikely to override entrenched national politics, powered by international suasion.
  • The aim should be to make accelerated climate action congruent with an enlightened notion of national interest by focusing on key actions in rapidly changing areas such as energy and urbanisation.
  • India can build a diplomatic approach on a firm domestic foundation that takes seriously climate change as a factor in its future development pathway.

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