India at COP28: Negotiations and Commitments

Author – Anuhsa Arif

India has always been strongly positioned in international climate action dialogues. It is considered a big player in investments and advocacy, as well as a central voice for climate financing, especially for what is considered the global south. At the recent COP28 hosted by the United Arab Emirates in Dubai, India again advocated for the developing countries’ collective needs.

In its national statement, the Indian delegation highlighted some of the country’s key domestic initiatives and achievements. These included the country’s endeavours to decouple its economic growth from greenhouse gas emissions, which has successfully reduced the emission intensity of the GDP by 33 per cent between 2005 and 2019. Additionally, India’s non-fossil fuel-based electric capacity, which has gone up by 40 per cent nine years ahead of target, was also highlighted.

However, India remained relatively silent during the discussion of fossil fuels ‘phasing out/down’ at the COP28. In 2022, at the COP27 in Egypt, India proposed the inclusion of clear language for ‘phasing down’ of fossil fuels instead of an imposition of a complete phase-out for all countries. The silence from India is only indicative of its position on the issue of fossil fuel phase-out. The country is not opposed to the idea of phasing out; its concern remains that 85 per cent of the CO2 load in the atmosphere is caused by the industrialisation path of the developed countries and thus, it is their imperative to cut down emissions first.

India also demanded that the developed countries must collaborate with developing countries to make the means of implementation available (including finance) to ensure that the COP28’s consensus on moving away can be implied. 

Global Stocktake Text 

The Global Stocktake Text (GST) of the Paris Agreement is expected to drive the next phase of policy and climate action by taking account of the current status of targets met. However, going forward, it also forms the basis for action and accountability. India’s climate policies have historically been responsive to the international climate policy momentum.

In the GST negotiations, India (as a representative of the BASIC bloc) emphasised increased accountability from the industrialised nations. The BASIC bloc, consisting of Brazil, South Africa, India and China, pushed for the global stocktake also to take in account the failures of the developed nations.

However, India remained hesitant to sign key pledges, such as the COP28 Declaration on Climate and Health. It also did not commit to tripling the global renewable energy capacity by 2030. The countries’ statement on the issue explains that for India, with its current healthcare infrastructure, curbing greenhouse gas emissions for cooling in the sector may not be practical or achievable in the agreed short-term period.

India’s earlier proposition of “phasing down” all fossil fuels and not just coal was also not given priority in the new draft GST. In fact, more weight has been placed on “phasing out” of fossil fuels, especially coal. This consensus can cause issues for India’s energy mix, which is heavily coal-reliant. 

India’s Leadership in Transition

At the COP28, India and Sweden co-launched Phase II of the Leadership Group for Industry Transition (LeadIT 2.0) for 2024-26. The LeadIT members are a group of countries and companies launched in September 2019, supported by the World Economic Forum, committed to achieving the Paris Agreement. The joint mission statement aims for the low-carbon transition of emission-intensive industries and enabling conditions such as access to clean power, technology and finance, stronger demand signals and credible policies.

India also hosted a high-level event on the ‘Green Credit Programme’ (GCP) at COP28. The Green Credit initiative is set to incentivize voluntary pro-planet actions. The GCP was launched in India under the Mission LiFE-Lifestyle for Environment in October of 2023; it has been introduced as a market-based mechanism for various stakeholders, including individuals, communities, private sector companies and industries. The initiative will focus on water conservation and afforestation in the first phase. Standing on its promise to lead the global community through Mission LiFE, India co-hosted the event on GCP to share ambition and enable international collaboration.

Other side events on localised climate action and impacts of climate change vulnerability in the Himalayan region were also hosted by India. Through these events, India raised pertinent issues of increased vulnerability in the Indian Himalayan region, which exposes more than 50 million people to the risk of displacement. It elaborated on the importance of localised actions and national missions for sustaining ecosystems as well as amplifying the role played by local communities. 

Through its actions and initiatives, India plays an important role in including local communities and amplifying the voices of the most vulnerable in climate change dialogues. The climate talks and country negotiations remained focused on mitigation rather than resilience building, both of which hold equal importance for developing countries like India.