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| Last Updated:20/01/2021

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BASIC Instinct: After China, Brazil signs US-driven climate deal; Will India travel its own path?

NEW DELHI: The BASIC nations (Brazil, South Africa, India and China) may be presenting themselves as a united bloc, but the group appears to be gradually losing its sting on the climate change front.

Countries of the group are moving towards the USdriven bilateral deal to fight climate change even as one of them, China, has almost replicated the deal with America as its 'climate action plan'.

Although the bilateral agreement route to reach a multilateral deal may not affect the outcome, it certainly raises a question mark over the effectiveness of BASIC as a group during negotiations when each of the constituent charts a different course.

First, it was China that had entered into a bilateral deal with the US in November last year. Now, it's Brazil's turn. On Tuesday, it signed a bilateral deal with the US to intensify collaboration between the two countries and work together to secure an ambitious climate agreement in Paris.

China, the world's biggest polluter, in its INDC, submitted to the UNFCCC on Tuesday, in fact, repeated what it had promised to the second largest emitter, the US, in its bilateral deal in November, 2014. Most of what China has now promised as part of its post-2020 'climate action plan', had its origin in its bilateral negotiations with the US.

Though India has not entered into similar deal with the US, it too had signed certain agreements with the Americans in January during the visit of the President Barack Obama. The US had then promised to help India on its low carbon growth path by extending both technical and financial support to the latter's renewable energy sector that aims to reach an ambitious 1,75,000MW mark by 2022.

In its deal with the US, Brazil which falls within the top 10 emitters — promised to increase the share of renewables in its energy mix to 28-33% by 2030, and improve lowcarbon agricultural and grazing land practices among other measures. Interestingly, while the US is at the centre of all these promises, Washington itself could not present its own INDC on expected lines.

Environmentalists said the INDCs put out by big polluters — China, US and EU — indicated that the sum total by all countries would not add up to limit global temperature rise by 2 degree Celsius.

"Although China is doing more than the US and EU, its total emissions in 2030 will still be very high. It will be about four times more than India's. China's per capita emissions in 2030 will be about 12 ton, similar to the US, but again four times higher than India. Such large emissions are not in line with keeping the global temperature rise within manageable limits," said Chandra Bhushan, climate change expert of the Delhi-based think-tank Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).

The focus is obviously now on India, the world's fourth largest polluter. The CSE experts believe that India should now work harder with developing countries and push for an ambitious global deal which is fair and equitable and saves the world from catastrophic climate impacts.

"India should put out INDCs that are based on equity and fairness. This is the only way we shame big polluters to reduce their emissions which are in line with the planetary limits," says Sunita Narain, director general, CSE.

India is expected to submit its INDC by September. The big question is what stance India will take. Will it follow the likes of US and China or carve out a different path for itself?

The recently released report of the IPCC mentions that the world needs to cut its emissions between 40 and 70% below 2010 levels by 2050 to stay within the 2 degrees Celsius temperature increase pathway. The INDCs put out so far will, however, not allow the world to meet this benchmark.

"From our analysis, it is quite clear that the Paris deal, like the Copenhagen Accord in 2009, is likely to keep the world to a temperature increase trajectory of 4-5 degrees Celsius," said Bhushan.

All about climate action plan:

1. 'climate action plan' is called 'Intended Nationally Determined Contribution' (INDC) in climate change negotiation parlance

2. Countries are expected to submit their climate action plan, specifying how they will fight global warming under a post-2020 agreement

3. INDCs, comprising emission cut promises, will form the basis of climate negotiations in Paris in December

4. Once all countries submit their INDCs, it will be calculated whether these actions are enough to keep global temperature rise under 2 degrees Celsius this century from pre-industrialization levels

5. 44 countries have, so far, submitted their INDCs to the UNFCCC

Who promised what:

1. EU (28 countries): to cut emissions by at least 40% from 1990 levels by 2030

2. USA: to cut emissions by 26-28% below its 2005 levels by 2025

3. China: commits to peak its emissions around 2030; Emission will decline only after reaching the peak. It also promises to reduce carbon intensity 60-65% from 2005 levels by 2030

4. Russia: to cut emissions by 25-30% from 1990 levels by 2030, Switzerland: to cut emissions by at least 50% from its 1990 level by 2030

5. Norway: to cut emissions by at least 40% from its 1990 levels by 2030

6. Canada: to cut emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030

7. All these countries have also committed to increase share of renewable energy in their total energy mix