As a developing country, India’s policymakers must balance its ability to grow economically with its efforts to combat climate change. India currently has a population of 1.324 billion and a GDP of $2.264 trillion, according to the World Bank. Although India’s carbon emissions per capita are comparatively low to that of many other countries, its absolute emissions are the fourth highest in the world due to this large population (Le Quéré et al., 2015).
As India’s population grows, its carbon emissions are increasing exponentially because of urbanization and increased use of fossil fuels for resources. Since 1980, India’s emissions have risen by 285% and have been rising steadily (MIT Briefing 2017). In 2013, India emitted 1.9 tons of CO2 per year per person (MIT Briefing 2017). While developed countries such as the United States and those in Europe have decreased their emissions since 1980, developing countries such as India are struggling to control emissions due to their rapid population growth.
Cutting carbon emissions and self-funding the finances associated with climate policies can lower the standard of living of many of India’s citizens, who already face a lower standard of living than most developed nations. Many people live in poverty and lack security of jobs, housing, food, healthcare, mobility, and national security.
India also faces high rates of deforestation because it relies on the land for agriculture, commercial logging, and mining. However, fires used to clear the land release large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, and a decline in the number of trees limits the amount of carbon sequestration that can take place. The United Nation’s Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) program aims to increase afforestation and reforestation by creating financial incentives for developing countries to increase forest cover.
Forestry resources for economic growth are especially important because roughly 30 percent of India’s population lives below its poverty line of $2.40 per day (Katyal 2015). In general, India would like to mitigate climate change to create an environment sustainable for the future. However, its policymakers do not want to lower India’s commit to reducing poverty for its people by dealing with an issue that other nations have also contributed to.
Climate change can also have extremely negative effects on India’s economy and public health. Approximately 700 million individuals in rural areas of India rely on agriculture, forests, fisheries, and natural resources for income (Majra and Gur 2009). However, changing climate patterns, such as extreme heat waves, droughts, and floods can alter these sectors, resulting in malnutrition and a loss of income. Vector-borne diseases, such as malaria can also become more prominent. As a developing country, India is especially prone to infrastructure damage.
There is currently a global debate regarding which countries should bear the bulk of the finances associated with climate change mitigation and adaptation. India is a developing country, and as such, its policymakers must negotiate in order to receive funding from developing countries in order to assist India in combating climate change.
Many of India’s policymakers believe that developed nations are most responsible for contributing to climate change because of their high use of fossil fuels to enhance their economies. India believes it is being asked to reduce fossil fuel usage before it is able to develop its economy at a similar level and believes it is bearing an unfair share of the effort because of its large population. Furthermore, India is concerned that developed nations will use climate change as an excuse to slow the economic growth of India for political reasons.
As a result, during the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009, India joined BASIC, an alliance with Brazil, South Africa, and China (Qi 2011). These countries, which contain roughly 40 percent of the world’s population, have emerging economies and have recently become more industrialized, giving them similar priorities (Hallding et al. 2011). They primarily lobby for funding support from wealthier countries to support developing nations in climate change negotiations.
Besides making this alliance, India has made other global commitments. In 2015, India pledged to increase its carbon-free power capacity from 30 to 40 percent by the year 2030 (Plucinska 2015). Taking action on climate change could also improve air quality through a focus on cleaner forms of renewable energy, and it could help India politically as well.
Hallding, Karl, et al. “Together Alone: Brazil, South Africa, India, China (BASIC) and the Climate Change Conundrum.” Stolkholm Environmental Institute, 2011.
Gupta, Himangana, et al. “Mapping ‘Consistency’ in India’s Climate Change Position: Dynamics and Dilemmas of Science Diplomacy.” SpringerLink, Springer Netherlands, 8 Jan. 2015.
Katyal, Ritika. “India Census Shows Extent of Poverty.” CNN, Cable News Network, 2 Aug. 2015.
Majra, Jp, & Gur, A. “Climate Change and Health: Why Should India Be Concerned?” Indian Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, vol. 13, no. 1, 2009, p. 11.
Plucinska, Joanna. “India Submits INDC Climate Change Targets to the U.N.” Time, Time, 1 Oct. 2015.
Qi, Xinran. “The Rise of BASIC in UN Climate Change Negotiations.” South African Journal of International Affairs, vol. 18, no. 3, 2011, pp. 295–318.
Quéré, C. Le, et al. “Global Carbon Budget 2015.” Earth System Science Data, vol. 7, no. 2, July 2015, pp. 349–396.