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The pressure is on in the next two weeks for these delegates and scientists, environmentalists and activists from around the world to reach a deal since similar efforts in the past 23 years have met with failure.
Scientists say the extensively high level of carbon emissions have already created significant global warming which has caused flooding and higher-than-normal temperatures in Australia and much of the Middle East.
They warn that 2015 will be the hottest year on record, surpassing the record broken in 2014.
Christiana Figueres, the head of the UN’s climate change negotiations, told delegates at the opening of the summit that the burden of responsibility on world leaders has never been so great to curb a rise in temperatures to two degrees centigrade by the end of the century.
“The world is looking to you. The world is counting on you.”
Pledges, but the West should do more
Some 170 countries at the Paris 2015 COP21 climate change conferences have already submitted their national pledges – also known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) – to reduce carbon emissions beyond 2020.
This marks a shift in strategy from previous UN environment conferences.
In October, India (the fourth largest greenhouse gas emitter) said it would cut the rate of carbon emissions relative to gross domestic product by 33-35 per cent by 2030 from 2005 levels.
A climate-change policy statement released by New Delhi said the plans were “fair and ambitious considering the fact that India is attempting to work towards low carbon emission pathway while endeavoring to meet all the developmental challenges the country faces today.”
The country will boost the share of electricity produced from sources other than fossil fuels to 40 per cent by 2030, the government said.
But the Indian government has also called on industrialized nations to do more.
While reiterating the above pledges in a Financial Times oped, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that “the lifestyles of a few must not crowd out opportunities for the many still on the first steps of the development ladder”.
He said that developing nations must be given an opportunity to grow and that some, such as in the G7, should shoulder greater burden in curbing carbon emissions.
“We will have 175GW of renewables by 2022, and have imposed levies on coal and rationalised subsidies on petroleum products. Additional forest and tree cover will absorb at least 2.5bn worth of carbon dioxide,” Modi said.
The prime minister also pledged to clean rivers, create smart cities, and replace diesel fuel with clean energy.
“New awareness, however, should lead advanced countries to assume more responsibility. Just because technology exists does not mean it is affordable and accessible,” he said on Monday.
This was also China’s position earlier this summer.
In June, China on said it had made its “utmost efforts” yet to fight climate change, but also reiterated that developed countries need to take the lead in cutting emissions.
Considered the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, China aims to cut carbon dioxide emissions per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) by 60-65 per cent from the 2005 level by 2030.
“China is fully committed to playing an even greater part in global governance and in advancing common development of mankind,” Chinese Premier Li Keqiang earlier pledged.
In 2014, carbon emissions per unit of GDP was 33.8 per cent lower than the 2005 level.
In the same year, China invested $89 billion in clean energy representing the country’s commitment to a low-carbon future, Bloomberg New Energy Finance said last week.
The global investment index backed by Britain, the United States and the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF), measures and ranks the investment climate for clean energy in developing countries.
China scored the highest at 2.29 on a 0-5 scale on the list of clean energy investment and deployment after topping the list last year with a score of 2.23, according to Climatescope 2015.
Some environmentalists say that deforestation, particularly of the Amazon region in South America, has been a grave concern for decades.
Official statistics released by the Brazilian government showed Brazil’s deforestation grew by an alarming 28 per cent in the period between August 2012 to July 2013.
Brazil is the seventh worst emitter, according to the World Resources Institute.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has vowed to curb deforestation and increase reforestation in the next few years.
She made her commitment at the UN General Assembly in September.
“We are currently investing in low-carbon agriculture and have reduced deforestation in the Amazon region by 82 per cent,” Rousseff earlier said.
The Brazilian government also aims to eradicate illegal deforestation by 2030 and carry out reforestation of 12 million hectares within the same time period.
“The contribution of Brazil will be a reduction of 37 per cent of its greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. Our ambition is to reach a reduction of 43 per cent by 2030. The base year in both cases is 2005,” she said in September.
Outlining her vision for a global climate change agreement, Rousseff stressed on the importance of a “common response”.
“Our obligations should be ambitious and consistent with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. The Paris Conference is a unique opportunity for us to shape a common response to the global challenge of climate change,” the President said.
Meanwhile, oil rich countries in the Middle East have pledged to aggressively pursue alternative energy sources.
On Sunday, Dubai ruler and Vice-President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum said on his Twitter account that his country has launched “the world’s biggest solar plant worth AED 50 billion ($13.6 billion).
Al Maktoum said this would be done by 2030 and provide 5000MW of power.
“Twenty-five per cent of Dubai’s energy in 2030 will be clean energy, rising to 75 per cent in 2050,” Al Maktoum said.
“We will be the city with the world’s smallest carbon footprint.”
As for the US, considered to be the world’s second worst carbon emitter, President Barack Obama said that his country would slash emissions up to 28 per cent from 2005 levels by 2025.
According to the World Resources Institute, the European Union is the third worst emitter; Russia is the fifth. Japan, Canada, and Mexico are the eighth, ninth, and tenth worst emitters, respectively.
The BRICS Post with inputs from Agencies