The world has a limited carbon budget to restrict temperature rise since pre-industrial times to either 1.5°C or 2°C. This budget is more stringently limited for the temperature target of 1.5°C, and more than 80% of it was already exhausted by 2019. The narrative on net-zero and the aggressive push for all countries to declare target years for it ignore the scientific understanding of the problem of global warming. It is not the year of net-zero that is the determining factor for global temperature rise, but the cumulative emissions till the world reaches net-zero emissions. The Climate Equity Monitor (CEM) centre stages this core scientific understanding.
The CEM also integrates this result of climate science with the basic issue of climate equity and justice. Developed countries have usurped a disproportionately large share of the carbon budget and based on the currently declared targets, will continue to do so even in the future. The CEM clearly illustrates the scale of developed country overuse and provides estimates of the carbon debt and credit of different Annex-I (developed nations) and non-Annex-I (developing countries). The methodology used is clear and straightforward.
Unfortunately, many other websites that track climate efforts emerge from the Global North and completely sideline the issue of historical responsibility. They provide no historical context to the pledges made for the future and many of them greenwash the repeatedly delayed action of developed countries that is responsible for the climate crisis we face today. In the process of greenwashing, they also fall short on representing the science accurately. For example, the ‘effort’ of the US on climate change is often termed “adequate” despite its high historical and per capita emissions, repeated withdrawal from climate agreements, and continued dependence on fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas), just because of a net-zero declaration for 30 years into the future that will result in their disproportionate consumption of even the remaining carbon budget. Such representation of developed countries’ actions ignores both science and equity, which are key elements of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
With the CEM, we aim to represent a perspective on climate equity from the developing world. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first initiative of its kind from the developing world. But we hope that many others take up the task of putting forward their own perspectives emerging from the realities of their people and their social and economic conditions.
In India, too often we have been looking purely inward as if the entire responsibility to address the issue of climate change was ours. We felt that it was high time that the balance was restored and that our obligations were commensurate with our responsibilities. The CEM is meant to bring a shift in awareness, especially in India, to the fact that climate change is a global collective action problem and cannot be solved merely by self-sacrifice. India is a part of the solution to climate change, but it is not the sole answer. A very incorrect idea is often floated —that those who are likely to feel the impact of climate change the most are obliged to do more by way of cutting emissions. Our data analysis and website are geared to debunking this false narrative.
Unfortunately, several small developing countries have either been misled or pressured into delivering huge emissions reductions, which in percentage terms are perhaps even more than that of some of the developed countries. We must remember that for developing nations, including India, development is an integral part of inter-generational equity.
In the 75th year of Independence, we cannot forget the sacrifices that brought us here and the effort required to ensure a secure and sustainable future for the coming generations. Resilience and environmental sustainability are part of this future, but there is much more at stake for us.
Associate Professor, National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bengaluru
Senior Fellow, Climate Change, MSSRF, Chennai