Inadequate attempts by US to combat climate change shifted burden to India: CSE

CSE termed US’s Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) as just ‘business-as-usual’


The study said the industry sector in US is the only one where energy and emissions have reduced. Photo: Bloomberg
The study said the industry sector in US is the only one where energy and emissions have reduced. Photo: Bloomberg

New Delhi: Inadequate attempts by the US to combat climate change have shifted the major burden of battling it to countries like India, the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) said, calling American promises ‘much ado about nothing’.

In a report released on Wednesday, CSE, a noted environment think-tank in India, termed US’s Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) as just ‘business-as-usual’. INDCs would form the basis of a new global climate regime at the Paris Summit in December, where over 190 countries would meet to negotiate.

The study said the energy system in the US would remain fossil fuel dependent, with 76% of total primary energy coming from fossil fuels in 2030 while renewables will contribute just 15%, up from the current 11%.

It said that overall, there is no evidence of a policy-driven downward trend in greenhouse gas emissions which after a dip in 2007-08 (due to recession) are rising again.

“The US has not put any significant nation-wide policy to change its mobility pattern. 86% people drive and trips made on public transport are reducing, not increasing. The energy efficiency norms for buildings in the US are voluntary and weak. Moreover, Americans are building bigger houses and buying more appliances negating any gains in efficiency improvements,” said the study.

It also said the electricity consumed at home by one American is equal to electricity consumed by 34 Indians.

Interestingly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been demanding lifestyle changes, especially in the developed world, to tackle climate change. While speaking at the UN Sustainable Development Summit last month, Modi had called for lifestyle changes to tackle environmental degradation and move toward sustainable consumption.

“The US INDCs is neither ambitious nor equitable. Our analysis shows that the key economic sectors of the US economy—energy, transport, industry—are operating and would continue to operate till 2030 in a business-as-usual way, even as the rest of the world gears up to fight climate change,” said CSE director general Sunita Narain while releasing the report.

The study said that the US is not doing anything extra to combat climate change and that most changes are happening naturally and automatically because of economic reasons and market forces.

“The US has not put in place policies to shift its economy towards low carbon. The result is the US will produce and consume 20% more fossil fuels in 2030 than what it does today,” said Chandra Bhushan, CSE’s deputy director general.

Explaining further, Bhushan said the Clean Power Plan (CPP), the most ambitious climate action of President Obama to reduce emissions from the power sector, is even less ambitious than the business-as-usual approach.

The study said the industry sector in US is the only one where energy and emissions have reduced, but that is because the US has outsourced emissions which means that 60% of the value goods consumed in the US is imported.

It alleged that due to such business-as-usual approach of the US, the burden of tackling climate change is shifting to countries like India.

It further said that US’s climate policy does not address the issue of burgeoning consumption of goods and services. “In terms of value, the US has doubled its total consumption of goods and services during 1990-2014,” the study said.

“US’s per capita household consumption expenditure is double that of an EU-28 household, 24 times a Chinese one, 44 times an Indian’s, 64 times a household in Bangladesh and 173 times a Malawi household. Without curbing such high level of consumption, the US cannot realistically address climate change,” emphasised Bhushan.

Calling US’s INDCs neither ambitious nor equitable, the study said they promises to reduce emissions by 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025. This is equivalent to emissions cut by a mere 13-15% by 2025 below 1990 levels.

As per CSE’s analysis, this means that in 2025, its per capita emissions are going to be 13.5 tonnes. In comparison, the EU has committed to reduce 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. This means in 2025, the per capita emissions of the EU will be 7.0 tonnes—about half of the US. India’s per capita emissions in 2025 would be 3.0-3.5 tonnes—one-fourth of the US.

The NGO also called US the biggest divisive force in the UN climate change negotiations in the run-up to Paris. “The no-domestic-action approach of the US has transformed the UN Climate Change Convention from a forum where every nation was supposed to take action based on common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities to a forum where nations are competing in a race to the bottom,” the study said.

“The poor ambition of the US means that everyone has low ambition. Today’s climate action vocabulary accepts bottom-up, nationally determined action and voluntary. These are US inventions and coinages. To suit only the US,” Narain added.

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