India-Canada Relations: Environment and Climate Change

By Kashyap, Aprajita | Indian Foreign Affairs Journal, January-March 2018 | Go to article overview

India-Canada Relations: Environment and Climate Change


Kashyap, Aprajita, Indian Foreign Affairs Journal


India and Canada have held similar views on diverse issues relating to democracy, development, human rights, environment etc. Significantly, the presence of a large number of Indian Diaspora in Canada has often led to convergence between the two towards adoption of cooperative and congruent policies. Both have endorsed multiculturalism, are natural resource rich countries and have had similar patterns of colonial experiences.

Canada, a developed middle power and India, an emerging global player have held common views on the world platform on issues related to environmental protection, energy security and climate change. In the wake of widespread environmental concerns, the two have increasingly adopted mechanisms that give importance to the concerns of the indigenous people due to severe socio-economic implications of climate change on them. The anatomy of the substantive stands taken on climate change can be analysed through the disposition of the heads of government of both sides through periods of crest and trough. Understanding the fundamentals of the climate change agreements requires analysis of the provisions and terms of the key agreements.

The Context of Climate Change

The world is transforming due to consequences of increasing energy demands, shifting energy markets and the resultant climate change, a notion that was primarily discussed at the Rio Summit of 1992 and in due course became the basis for the Kyoto Protocol (1997) that was designed to assist countries in adapting, developing and deploying technologies that enhanced resilience to the adverse impacts. The Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) came into force in November 2016 when 55 countries contributing a similar percentage to total global emissions ratified the deal. An incredible achievement so far has been that 174 out of 197 parties to the Convention have ratified the agreement to keep global temperature increase "well below" 2°C and to stretch to limit the rise to 1.5°C; to review progress every five years; to build annual corpus of $100bn as climate finance to be used by the developing countries for transition; and a minimum interlude of three years for countries that have ratified to be able to exit.1

Unlike the divisive Kyoto Protocol, the Paris Agreement places uniform requirements on all parties in relation to GHG mitigation and adaptation to the adverse effects of climate change. It requires communication of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) every five years and of domestic measures adopted to achieve them. Even though states have autonomy in deciding the form and stringency of their contributions, they are expected to ensure that successive national contributions represent a progression from the previous targets. These contributions are paired with an oversight system consisting of three components - a transparency system, which ensures countries are adhering to what they had initially agreed to, a global stock-taking process that periodically assesses degree of progress towards the long-term goals, and a calibration system to measure the parameters of acquiescence with the agreement.

The legal implications of the Paris Agreement are that it is a 'treaty' under the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties between States and International Organizations binding on India and Canada that have consented to be bound by means of ratification, acceptance, approval, or accession. Despite the binding nature, there are some provisions with greater legal force and authority than others which are softer obligations. The provision creates rights and obligations for parties, sets standards for state behaviour, evaluates compliance or non-compliance and spells out the consequences of non-compliance. To reach the set standards, technological and financial dissemination and enhanced capacity building framework are expected to be flowing from Canada as a developed country for supporting action by a developing and vulnerable country like India. …

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