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Rich Countries To Pay Back


The article emphasises that the window of opportunity to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius appears to be closing rapidly, and it examines the prospects and feasibility of limiting carbon emissions to 45% by 2030 and reaching net zero by 2050 to avert disaster.


GS Paper 3:  Conservation related issues.

Mains question

Discuss the steps that must be taken in order to meet India’s climate change targets by 2070. (250 words)

Concerning the COP 27 Summit in 2022

  • Illustration: The United Nations Climate Change Conference 2022, or COP27, was recently held in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.
    • The UNFCCC was adopted 30 years ago at COP27 (entered into force in 1994)
  • Goal: It builds on the outcomes of COP26 to provide action on a wide range of issues critical to addressing the climate emergency.
  • Agenda: COP27 seeks renewed international solidarity in order to carry out the historic Paris Agreement, signed in 2015, for the benefit of people and the planet.
    • For the first time, it included the issue of “loss and damage” in its formal main agenda.
  • ‘Loss and Damage’ refers to the costs that rich and developed countries, which are primarily responsible for industrial emissions, should pay to poorer countries that have contributed little to pollution but are more vulnerable to extreme weather events.
    • Consider the recent devastating floods in Pakistan.
  • Importance: Developing countries, including India, will put pressure on rich countries to agree to a new global climate finance target, also known as the new collective quantified goal on climate finance (NCQG), to cover the costs of addressing and adapting to climate change.

Overview of Global Warming

  • Caution: The IPCC has stated unequivocally that a climate catastrophe is unfolding at the ongoing COP 27. Extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and severe, and global warming has already reached 1.1 degrees Celsius.
  • Limited support outcomes: Current commitments and policies of various nations will result in a temperature rise of 2.8 degrees Celsius by the end of this century.
  • Gripping concern: The European energy crisis, which has seen gas prices skyrocket, has made the economic case for a faster transition to renewables more compelling.
  • Major emitters making a significant difference: The G-20 countries are responsible for more than 70% of global carbon emissions.
    • The actions of these nations will determine the fate of humanity, and their rapid decarbonisation will cause a significant shift.
  • Primary emitters: Per capita carbon emissions in the United States are 14.6 metric tonnes. China comes in second with 8.4 tonnes per capita, followed by Europe with 6.8 tonnes per capita.
    • China, which has been the world’s largest emitter for over 15 years, has contributed approximately 11% of total emissions since 1850.
    • With Russia, Canada, Japan, and Australia included, the combined contribution to greenhouse gas emissions exceeds 65%, or nearly two-thirds of total emissions.
    • India, the world’s third largest emitter, accounts for only 3% of historical emissions.
  • India’s exemplary commitments: At COP26, India announced that by 2030, it would build 500GW of fossil-free generation capacity and meet half of its energy needs with renewables.
  • Limited guarantees: In 2009, developed countries agreed to provide $100 billion per year beginning in 2020 to assist developing countries in combating climate change. They are, however, struggling to keep this promise.
    • The Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) for Loss and Damages, established in 2013, was the first formal recognition of the need to compensate developing countries affected by climate disasters.

The actions must match the words.

  • Critical responsibility: As the world’s preeminent power, the United States wields enormous power.
    • Its per capita carbon emissions, while decreasing from more than 20 to 14.6 tonnes per capita, remain the highest in the world, by a wide margin.
    • According to a UN report, the United States has “inflicted more than $1.9 trillion in damages to other countries” as a result of its emissions.
  • Shifting stances: On the issue of climate change, the United States is internally divided, with Republicans continuing to oppose immediate action.
    • For example, the United States did not sign the Kyoto Protocol, and President Trump pulled the country out of the Paris Agreement, which it has since rejoined under Joe Biden.
    • It took the lead on climate change last year, hosting a global summit that reaffirmed the 1.5 degrees Celsius target.
  • Limited financial support: It took a year of intense effort and compromise for Biden to secure the $369 billion in funding needed for climate action, which was far less than what was proposed.
    • The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 includes climate change funding, bringing America closer to Biden’s goal of halving climate pollution from 2005 levels by 2030. But even this is insufficient.
  • Hard stance: Biden’s electoral campaign promise that the United States would have a fossil-fuel electricity system by 2035 has yet to be fulfilled.
    • In addition, the US Supreme Court limited the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from existing coal and gas-fired power plants.

The way forward

  • Timetable: Advanced economies such as the United States, Europe, China, Japan, and South Korea should ideally aim to achieve carbon-free electricity systems by 2030.
    • This would be difficult, but not beyond these economies’ technological capabilities.
  • Overcoming private interests: Carbon-free electricity systems would also be a powerful antidote to the impending recessions in various parts of the world by increasing demand and creating jobs.
    • However, the powerful fossil fuel industry’s interests in delaying this transition would have to be overcome.
  • Immediate action: China has set 2060 as the year it will achieve net zero carbon neutrality, but it needs to get there much sooner.
    • It has accomplished this by acting strategically and developing technologies and competitive manufacturing capacities across the entire spectrum of renewable energy sectors, from solar panels to electric vehicles (EVs) and batteries.
  • Electric vehicle (EV) future: EVs are gaining market share around the world. Europe has decided to phase out the sale of internal combustion engine vehicles by 2035, while the United Kingdom has already set 2030 as the deadline.
    • As renewables become more prevalent in the electricity grid, EV transportation will become less carbon-intensive.
  • Switch to electricity. As high gas prices force transportation and heating systems to use electricity, the emissions reductions required to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius may become feasible.
  • Promote hydrogen fuel: Hydrogen can be used to replace fossil fuels. Green hydrogen derived from renewable sources is one such solution, and the cost of this alternative fuel is also decreasing.
  • Financial inducements: Lowering tax rates on goods with low to zero carbon emissions can help accelerate the transition to alternative systems.
    • A differential import duty structure would encourage exporting countries to make the transition.
    • Extending tax credits for biodiesel and incentives for “sustainable aviation fuel” to reduce emissions from the airline industry could also help.
  • Promote renewables: Solar and wind are the least expensive sources of electricity. Germany, which already gets 40% of its electricity from renewable sources, has decided to transition to a fossil-free electricity system by 2035. California in the United States has done the same. It should be expanded further.
  • Requirement for fossil fuels: Many industrial processes cannot be run on electricity. Neither can air travel or shipping. These “hard to eliminate sectors” continue to pose technological challenges in the quest to eliminate the use of fossil fuels.
  • As breakthroughs make industrial-scale deployment of such technologies possible, the path to net zero would become clearer.


December 2023