India’s push for climate justice

India’s push for climate justice

India, the world's third largest emitter of carbon dioxide, is one of the countries worst affected by climate change. But it takes issue with those now asking it to clean up its act. Why, the Indians ask, should we give up our right to get rich by burning fossil fuels like you developed economies have done for generations?

That's precisely the message that India's energy minister had for the US and other wealthy nations at a recent Zoom summit after they pressured Delhi to set a future deadline for net zero emissions. For India, he explained, such targets are "pie in the sky" aspirations that do little to address the climate crisis the country faces right now.


High stakes. The impacts of climate change will be severe for India. Parts of the country are set to become unbearably hot in the coming years. Torrential monsoon rains are becoming more frequent and unpredictable, as are droughts, which will hinder the agriculture's sector ability to feed 1.4 billion people and employ nearly 60 percent of the labor force.

Melting glaciers may alter the course of the Indus, Ganges, and Brahmaputra rivers, making it harder for farmers to irrigate crops. And tens of millions of Indians live in low-lying areas that could be underwater in a couple of decades.

Taking action. Faced with such grim prospects, India says it's doing its part to turn the tide. The country is one of the few currently on track to meet its emissions reduction target in the 2015 Paris Climate Accord, and is very close to achieving its objective of using 40 percent of renewable energy sources by the end of the decade.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been internally recognized for driving India to become a global climate champion. His government has spurred massive public and private investment in clean energy, especially solar, where India is now a major player due to ultra-low prices. But that's not the entire story.

Coal remains king. India still burns a lot of coal. In fact, coal powers about half of the country's electricity generation. As the Indian economy grows, so will demand for coal — and the air in megacities like Delhi and Mumbai will get even more toxic.

And it's not just coal. Eliminating dirty household fossil fuels for cooking, heating and lighting would fix India's air pollution problem without any changes to industrial or vehicle emissions. But an attempt by the government to force hundreds of millions of low-income Indians to use more expensive green alternatives would likely be met with the same fierce resistance that farmers have shown to Modi's new laws to make the agriculture sector more business-friendly.

To drastically cut emissions, India needs cash. Delhi believes that rich nations should spend less on going "net zero" themselves and more on helping developing countries realize their climate action plans with less stringent requirements. Why, the Indians ask again, should wealthy nations demand that we all go green but only we stay poor, when you still get most of the available climate finance money, and yet it is we who will suffer the most?

For India, it's high time to shift the burden of paying for climate action to those who caused Earth to warm in the first place. But will that argument convince rich countries to divert funds intended to reach their own targets so India won't have to choose between economic growth or saving the environment? We may find out in a couple of weeks at Joe Biden's Earth Day Summit.

While residents of wealthy countries are getting ready for hot vaxxed summer — COVID is still ravaging many low- and middle-income countries. The horrifying scenes coming out of India in recent weeks have gripped the world, causing governments and civil society to quickly mobilize and pledge support.

But on the other side of the globe, Brazil is also being pummeled by the pandemic — and has been for a year now. Yet thus far, the outpouring of aid and (solidarity) hasn't been as large.

What explains the global alarm at India's situation, and seeming passivity towards Brazil's plight? What are the politics of compassion?

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Delhi-based reporter Barkha Dutt's decades of journalism couldn't prepare her for the horrific experience of covering the death of one specific COVID-19 victim: her own father. In a conversation with Ian Bremmer, Dutt recounts her desperate struggle to find an ambulance to take her father through Delhi traffic to reach the hospital, only for him to die in the ICU. Their in-depth discussion looks at India's struggle with the world's worst COVID crisis in the upcoming episode of GZERO World begins airing on US public television Friday, May 7. Check local listings.

A Green Party-led government for the world's fourth largest economy? That's no longer far-fetched. As Signal's Gabrielle Debinski wrote last month, most current polls now show Germany's Greens in first place in federal elections set for September 26. And for the first time, the Greens have a candidate for chancellor. Annalena Baerbock is vying to replace Angela Merkel, who has led Germany for the past 16 years.

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India and Brazil are currently the world's top two COVID hotspots. But while India's crisis is — at least according to official statistics — a relatively recent one, Brazil's COVID disaster has been an ongoing train wreck. Where India seemed to have kept the pandemic under control until some bad missteps about two months ago, COVID has been wreaking havoc in Brazil almost constantly for over a year now. And President Jair Bolsonaro's macho-posturing and COVID denialism has clearly not helped. We take a look at average daily new cases and deaths in both countries since the pandemic began.

US reverses course on vaccine patents: In a surprise move, the Biden administration will now support waiving international property rights for COVID vaccines at the World Trade Organization. Until now the US had firmly opposed waiving those patents, despite demands from developing countries led by India and South Africa to do so. Biden's about face comes just a week after he moved to free up 60 million of American-bought AstraZeneca jabs — still not approved by US regulators — for nations in need. It's not clear how fast an IP waiver would really help other countries, as the major impediments to ramping up vaccine manufacturing have more to do with logistics and supply chains than with patent protections alone. But if patent waivers do accelerate production over time, then that could accelerate a global return to normal — potentially winning the US a ton of goodwill.

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28: Yair Lapid, leader of Israel's opposition Yesh Atid (There is a Future) party, has 28 days to form a new government. President Reuven Rivlin tapped Lapid after incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to cobble together a governing coalition by Tuesday's midnight deadline, further prolonging Israel's political stalemate.

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Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

How big of a blow is Apple's new privacy feature to companies like Facebook, who depend on tracking users?

The long-awaited update, including enhanced privacy features, actually empowers those users to decide not to be tracked. So that's great news for people who are sick of how the data trail they leave behind on the web is used. But it has to be said, that simple feature settings changed by Apple cannot solve the problem of misuse of data and microtargeting alone. Still, Apple's move was met with predictable outrage and anti-trust accusations from ad giant Facebook. I would anticipate more standard setting by companies in the absence of a federal data protection law in the United States. That's just to mention one vacuum that big tech thrives on.

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India’s COVID crisis hits home

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