UNITED NATIONS — Neither India nor Brazil will unveil a major financial contribution toward poorer countries grappling with climate change as China did last week to the tune of $3.1 billion, ministers from both major economies said this weekend.
In separate, exclusive interviews with ClimateWire, Indian Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar and Brazilian Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira praised the recent joint climate announcement between the United States and China. That deal saw particularly key developments in China like a 2017 launch of a carbon market and a promise of a hefty climate finance check.
The Indian and Brazilian ministers also touted their own nations’ emissions-cutting plans that will be part of a new global agreement to be signed in Paris in December.
Brazil’s, to cut absolute emissions 37 percent by 2025 from 2005 levels and 43 percent by 2030, was formally submitted to the United Nations yesterday. India’s will be unveiled Friday on the anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth, Javadekar said, and will be "comprehensive, balanced and ambitious."
Yet both said their governments will not be following in China’s footsteps on big funding pledges.
"We are already doing it," Javadekar said. Pressed on whether it would announce something more like China — which also is already aiding poorer nations — he said, "We don’t copy."
The Indian minister also downplayed the impact China’s finance offering will have on the negotiations, saying, "It doesn’t change much. China today is financing the U.S.; it is processing U.S. Treasury bills, so China is in an enviable position."
Teixeira, meanwhile, noted that Brazil already contributes aid through its national development bank. In contrast to Javadekar, she spoke optimistically about boosting assistance to other countries to develop clean energy and build resilience, but also pointed to domestic concerns.
Fighting the past vs. preparing for the future
"We support not only South-South but also North-South and triangular cooperation," she said. "If you can improve in these things, we want to do this. But remember, we have national challenges also."
The Paris agreement will tie together the emissions targets submitted by dozens of countries and is expected to deliver significant levels of finance to developing nations. One lingering argument among countries is whether rich countries should have their own specific obligations.
To that end, the environment ministers of India and Brazil also expressed reservations about a new concept of fairness that the United States and China have hit upon in their deal. The U.S.-China vision would do away with a strict division created in 1997 of countries into two categories — developed and developing — with only the former obligated to cut carbon and deliver money.
It replaces that with a principle allowing nations to act voluntarily according to their wealth, capacity, historic and future emissions and "in light of national circumstances." The United States describes it as a fairer system, but others worry that it will let rich countries that still haven’t acted ambitiously enough off the hook for decades of greenhouse gas pollution.
"Historical responsibility can not be wished away by any new parameters. It will always remain," Javadekar said. He argued that this is particularly true when it comes to delivering finance.
"Others are responsible. We are not. We are the sufferers," he said. We are the vulnerable countries, and they [developed nations] are paying part of it. I can call it reparations."
Javadekar said the category or "annex" system must stay in place. At the same time, he said there is no reason why China or any other country that wants to could not move from the developing into the developed country category.
Teixeira, for her part, said she also believes accounting for past emissions is important. But, she said, Brazil is more focused on the future.
Praise for Brazil despite concerns
"Developed countries must do what they need to do. They have an obligation. Developing countries, we need to develop without doing the same trajectory that caused these problems," she said. "You need to convince people you can have development with [climate] protection."
At the same time, Brazilian officials did not fully embrace the U.S.-China wording. Texiera’s top climate negotiator, Ambassador José Antônio Marcondes de Carvalho, said Brazil has its own vision of a system that sees an inner ring of countries — those now known as Annex 1 — taking economywide cuts while developing countries would work their way up to doing so.
Brazil’s target for Paris, or "intended nationally determined contribution" (INDC), calls for protecting and restoring 32 million hectares (79 million acres) of forestland and slashing carbon emissions from 2.4 gigatons down to 1.2 gigatons by 2030.
"We will arrive in 2030 in the future with population increasing, also with development and capacity to reduce emissions at less 1990," Teixeira said. "The direction is there."
The target won praise in environmental circles, even though many activists said Brazil could have gone further.
"Brazil’s Paris climate pledge is a very strong first step from a still-emerging economy," said Michael Wolosin, managing director of research and policy at consulting group Climate Advisers.
"It shows serious intent to over time grow the country’s already strong renewable energy sector, to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, and to restore degraded agricultural lands and forests. It is especially notable that Brazil’s commitment is not conditional on international support," he said. But Wolosin also urged Brazil to set a date no later than 2025 to reach zero natural forest loss.
India, ‘part of the solution’
As for India’s INDC, Javadekar offered few new specifics and did not outright confirm reports in the Indian media that it will double the country’s already ambitious renewable energy target of 175 gigawatts by 2022.
"Our action will reflect on all fronts: increasing renewables, lowering emissions intensity, even lowering energy intensity, having more carbon sink, building resilience capacity," he said.
Asked if it would be conditional on finance, he also hedged. "What we present will be basically on our own resources, but part of it is definitely if there is international finance," he said. "We will require funds, but we are fighting the finance cause for least-developed countries."
And yet despite a sometimes combative tone toward developed nations, Javadekar said he is optimistic about Paris and certain there will be a new global agreement.
"India is not part of the problem … but we want to be part of the solution," he said.
"We are starting a new regime. We should welcome it. We should make Paris a festival, a new world order that … creates a new system where all countries are taking action of their own volition. That’s a big change."