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New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement on Sunday that India will ratify the Paris agreement on 2 October, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, has made it almost certain that the climate treaty will enter force this year. “Now the time has come to ratify the COP21 protocol. India will do it on Gandhi Jayanti on 2 October," Modi said while addressing the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) national executive meet in Kozhikode, Kerala, on Sunday.

Paris agreement

The Paris agreement, formally known as the Conference of Parties (CoP) protocol on combating climate change, is the world’s first comprehensive regime on tackling the phenomenon within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Adopted by 195 countries in Paris in December 2015, the regime will take effect after it is ratified by at least 55 countries responsible for 55% of global emissions. So far, 61 countries, not including India, have already ratified the treaty, and the emissions threshold currently stands at around 47%.

Major deliverables

According to reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), global warming beyond 2 degrees Celsius will lead to a rise in the number of “extreme climate events". A major goal of the Paris agreement, therefore, is to keep global temperature increase “well below" 2 degrees Celsius and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The pact and its progress will be reviewed every five years. In addition, the developed countries have pledged $100 billion a year in climate finance for developing countries by 2020 with a commitment to further raise it in the future. While there is no penalty for countries that miss their targets, the agreement has transparency rules to help encourage countries do achieve their obligations.

Also read: Is Paris climate deal ‘a speeding train heading towards a cliff’?

India’s importance

The significance of New Delhi’s support to the climate pact lies in the fact that India accounts for over 4% of global emissions and is crucial for crossing the threshold mark of 55%. The world’s top two polluters—the US and China —that together account for 40% of global carbon emissions, have already ratified the document. Once the 55% barrier is crossed, the climate regime will become legally binding on all signatories after a period of 30 days.

India’s obligations

India has tried to balance its carbon emissions with its economic growth objectives by not setting an outright pollution reduction goal. But, being a part of the global climate change regime, India will have significant obligations to meet under the treaty. The country will have to reduce its carbon footprint by 33-35% from its 2005 levels. This has to be achieved by 2030.

A key result area for India will come in the form of the reduction of emission intensity targets, which basically is the volume of emissions per unit of gross domestic product (GDP). The country will have to diversify its power generation sources and shift them significantly towards renewable energy sources to reduce volumes of emissions per unit of GDP. In numbers, by 2025, India will need a 175 gigawatt-power production capacity from non-fossil fuel sources.

Yet another commitment under the treaty requires India to increase its forest cover by five million hectares along with an improvement in the quality of green cover of an equal measure. It is expected that increased forest coverage will help India absorb massive carbon emissions from the atmosphere.

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