ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Looking beyond Durban: Where To From Here?

The lesson for India after Durban is that it needs to formulate an approach that combines attention to industrialised countries' historical responsibility for the problem with an embrace of its own responsibility to explore low carbon development trajectories. This is both ethically defensible and strategically wise. Ironically, India's own domestic national approach of actively exploring "co-benefits" - policies that promote development while also yielding climate gains - suggests that it does take climate science seriously and has embraced responsibility as duty. However, by focusing on articulating rigid principles rather than building on actual policies and actions, it only weakens its own position.

The recently concluded Durban ­climate negotiations accomplished the unlikely feat of changing everything and nothing at the same time. Everything has changed, in that a “Durban Platform” set in motion a new round of ­negotiations based on a parsimonious eight paragraph text, which leaves open the scope to revisit several contentious ­issues from past negotiations. At the same time, very little has changed, in that the global climate regulatory framework for the next eight years remains the one that existed prior to Durban. Only the most ­optimistic could hope that simply starting the firing gun on a new round of negotiations heralds a dramatic shift in the incentives for global climate action. Nonetheless, it is true that by establishing a new process, the climate negotiations have ­entered relatively new, and uncharted ­territory. This is an important moment, therefore, to pause and reflect on India’s approach so far, and, if necessary to make course corrections.

In this article, I explore what such a course correction might focus on. In brief, I argue that India needs to re-articulate and enrich its position on equity in climate negotiations, as a prelude to developing informed views on key aspects of the ­negotiations going forward. First, however, I briefly summarise the Durban outcomes, and clarify what I take to be India’s interests in the negotiation process. Both are necessary steps prior to looking forward.

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