"Phase down" of unabated coal was not India's language at the recently concluded international climate conference COP 26 at Glasgow and was introduced by the US and China, government sources said on Wednesday, and added it was "unfair" to criticise India for it.
On the condition of anonymity, the sources also asserted that the term "phase down" was already there in the text of the conference.
The Glasgow Climate Pact states that the use of "unabated coal should be phased down", as should subsidies for fossil fuels. Several countries had criticised India for making the wording weaker than the initial proposals, with the final text calling for only a "phase down" and not a "phase out" of coal.
Explaining how the whole situation unfolded, official sources said that many countries had objected to the initial text of "phasing out of coal and fossil fuel subsidies" after which a consensus was reached among the parties and a new text was arrived at which contained the term "phase down" instead of "phase out".
"It was the Chair of the COP 26, Alok Sharma, who had asked India to introduce the new text on the floor," an official said, adding that it was "unfair" on the part of those blaming India for promoting phase down, rather than phase out coal power, the single biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions.
Almost 200 nations at COP 26 in Glasgow had accepted the deal on November 13, which aimed at keeping the key global warming target alive, but with a change in language from "phase out of coal" to "phase down".
Another official from the government said that the term "phase down" was already there in the text. He said that India was certainly not comfortable with "phase out" of coal because peak power load in India still comes from coal.
However, it did not introduce the term "phase down" for which it is being deeply criticised, he said.
The official said that "all fossil fuels are bad. Our concern was why coal was being singled out at COP 26. The US is done using coal and has moved to other fossil fuels so they were comfortable doing away with it. This was our problem.
"However, we did not introduce the term 'phasing down'. It came from the US and China. India is being blamed only because it read out the statement.
He said that India wanted to emphasize 'phase out' subject to providing support to the poorest and the most vulnerable, in line with national circumstances, and recognising the need for support towards a just transition.
Sources also clarified that the five national goals announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi cannot be termed as "updated Nationally Determined Goals (NDCs)".
"They are national targets or goals which may be translated into NDCs and submitted by the environment ministry. It is wrong to say that whatever the PM announced are updated NDCs of India," sources said.
At at the high-level meeting at COP 26, Modi had announced 'the Panchamrit' (five goals) --raising India's non-fossil fuel-based energy capacity to 500 GW by 2030, ensuring that 50 per cent of the country's energy requirements was met by renewable sources by 2030, reducing the total projected carbon emission by one billion tons, decreasing carbon intensity of the economy to less than 45 per cent and finally, achieving net zero emissions by 2070.
The Glasgow Climate Pact was adopted on November 13 with United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres terming the outcome of the COP-26 "a compromise" and calling for action towards keeping global temperature rise within 1.5 degrees Celsius.
He had also called upon member nations to phase out the usage of coal and protect vulnerable communities from the impacts of climate change.
COP 26 President Sharma had also expressed disappointment over the use of the term "phasing down" of coal in the final outcome saying he wished that the originally agreed language on phasing out coal power in the Glasgow climate deal had been preserved.
"Of course, I wish that we had managed to preserve the language on coal that was originally agreed," he had told reporters, adding that, "nevertheless, we do have language on coal, on phase down, and I don't think anyone at the start of this process would have necessarily expected that that would have been retained."
Several countries had also criticised India for "promoting" the change on fossil fuels, even as Environment minister Bhupender Yadav, who represented the Indian delegation, asked the Glasgow climate summit how one could expect developing nations to make promises about "phasing out" coal and fossil fuel subsidies when they still have to deal with their development agendas and poverty eradication.
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