India’s Impact on Climate Change by Marc O’Bryan

Climate change has become a global concern that is being addressed by nations around the world. India’s rapid economic development has caused the country’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to significantly increase. From 1994 to 2007, India’s GHG emissions increased by 58%, which made India the fifth largest contributor of GHG emissions. As of now, India has made its way to third place in terms of GHG emissions, only behind China, the runner up, and the U.S., the number one polluter in the world.  Experts claim that India’s energy sector is primarily responsible for its increased GHG output. In an attempt to reduce its GHG emissions, India has made efforts to adopt measures that reduce its pollution output

India began these environmental efforts in 1997 when the Kyoto Protocol was officially adopted in Kyoto, Japan. The Kyoto Protocol establishes obligatory limitations of GHG emissions for industrialized nations. It is basically an international treaty that strives to “stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations” to a level that will prevent catastrophic climate change. No country is obligated to be a part of this international effort, but many countries choose to participate voluntarily. When the protocol went into force in 2005, India was one of the countries that agreed to its terms of committing to the reduction of GHG emissions. While many countries were assigned a specific cap on their emissions, larger developing countries like India and China were given less stringent restrictions that didn’t involve a set limitation on GHG emissions.

Over the past seven years, involving two rounds of international negotiations, talks over extending the recently expired initial Kyoto Protocol have led only to indecisiveness and frustration. The developed world is placing a lot of pressure on rising economic powers, such as India and China, to commit to firm caps on their emissions.  Developed nations argue that these emerging economies must take responsibility for their increased GHG emissions. In my opinion, these demands seem unjustified, mainly because these countries that pollute just as much and refuse to commit themselves to fixed emission caps are making these requests. Alongside other developing nations, India has opposed this extended Kyoto Protocol claiming that they have a “common but differentiated responsibility.” I take this to mean that India believes any reduction of GHG emissions that it commits to will cause a disproportionate amount of damage to their economy. Also, India was understandably frustrated with the tendency of developed countries to adopt their own self-determined emissions reduction goals. Although involved in the recent international agreement regarding the second phase of the Kyoto Protocol, India made no firm commitments regarding its reduction of GHG emissions.

Is it fair that India and other developing countries are being pressured into reducing their GHG emissions, while many developed nations are not making an equal effort to do the same?

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