The Netflix web series Ghoul provides an alternative to the stereotypical representation of the Muslim figure in Hindi cinema through its central protagonist and her dilemmas. 

Reading List

Personal Laws in India present a situation where abolishing them in the interest of gender justice also inadvertently benefits the reactionary side.   
The rampant abuse faced by domestic workers urgently necessitates a national policy to provide social and economic protection
This reading list explores the contradictory narratives that have been built around the issue of unemployment.

Discussion Map

In this feature, we map the discussion around Kirit S Parikh and Jyoti K Parikh's 2016 article, “Paris Agreement: Differentiation Without Historical Responsibility?” that argued against India reducing its greenhouse gas emissions at the cost of economic growth.



By Neglecting Historical Responsibility, Developed Countries Set a Poor Precedent




The authors argue that India should not bear false responsibility for global climate change.



India’s INDC [Intended nationally Determined Contributions] aims to reduce its emission intensity (that is, the amount of carbon dioxide [CO2 ] emitted per unit of gross domestic product [GDP]) by 30%–35% by 2030, compared to that in 2005. It also aspires to increase non-fossil-based power generation capacity by 40% by 2030. An additional carbon sink equivalent of 2.5–3 billion tonnes of CO2 through additional forest and tree cover will be created.



If we consider per capita emissions or per capita GDP, we need to relate them to responsibility, whereas responsibility can be directly proportional to stock of GHGs [greenhouse gases], as it is the stock of GHGs that causes warming … The Paris Agreement is a pyrrhic victory for developing countries.



India’s INDCs are ambitious and much above what India’s responsibility for climate change requires. We believe that the goals are attainable, but at some cost … Replacing coal-based generation by solar and wind may actually increase emissions from coal-based generation. Local air pollution from a coal-based plant can be controlled by end-of-pipe measures, which are far less expensive than replacing a coal-based plant by a solar or a wind plant.



The other co-benefit of renewables is claimed to be generation of employment ... However, in India, we need to add generating capacity. Also, our coal mining employs many more persons per tonne of coal than in the US or Europe, and a renewable plant may not generate more employment …  solar and wind plant operations require hardly any manpower. It is, therefore, quite unlikely that building a renewable plant instead of a new coal plant would create more employment in India.



Since a solar plant generates electricity only for limited hours, it will require either storage or a sophisticated smart grid that can deal with intermittent power. The cost of either of the solutions is likely to offset the savings in transmission costs, particularly when the capacities of renewables, such as solar and wind, become a substantial part of the total capacity.



As the investment required to create capacity to replace a coal plant by a solar plant is not likely to be less than eight times as large, it displaces other investments and the country would be able to invest less in, say, education, health or infrastructure. The growth rate of the economy would be smaller. The burden of this would disproportionately fall on the poor.



Since the atmospheric stock of GHGs causes global warming, it is natural to consider responsibility in proportion to a country’s contribution to it. India’s responsibility on that basis is nil, as India has not contributed to even 1 tonne of GHGs to the current stock. Thus, the INDC promises more than its responsibility for the threat of climate change. While India could have promised greater reduction in its emission intensity, it should do so only if other major emitters promise deeper cuts in their emissions and provide finance and technology aid.


Click here to read the article.


Industrial Development and Emission Reduction Can Occur Simultaneously




The authors argue that India should commit to its INDCs.




We think that the very framing of the problem of their article—around the two important issues of co-benefits and historical responsibility—is incomplete and therefore problematic … The INDC assesses the cost of mitigation and adaptation action, and therefore the need for support, at $2.5 trillion (2014–15 prices) between now and 2030 (UNFCCC 2015). In their article, the authors cite us as arguing that this is an overestimate because co-benefits of climate actions are not accounted for. Not quite. We do not assess whether this figure is an over or under-estimate, because the information to make such an assessment simply does not exist.



Quite aside from accuracy and clarity, however, the issue of cost is worth raising because it is a doorway to two larger issues that have been central to India’s climate policy, and are the focus of the article by Kirit S Parikh and Jyoti K Parikh: co-benefits and historical responsibility. We suggest their article incorrectly underplays the idea of co-benefits, and treats over-simplistically and out of legal context the idea of historical responsibility. India’s interests would be better served by more appropriate engagement with both these key ideas.



Co-benefits—the idea that development actions can sometimes bring climate gains—is at the core of our National Action Plan on Climate Change ... More important than precedent, however, co-benefits as a concept has been extremely useful to India’s political stance on climate change: development outcomes are the priority and we will pursue climate mitigation when it coincides with the promotion of nationally determined development outcomes. It is therefore unclear why the article seeks to undermine the notion.



The point is, to be useful, a co-benefits approach requires arriving at answers about potential trade-offs and synergies by following a well-developed methodology (Khosla et al 2015). Our own argument is not that co-benefits exist in all cases, rather it is that energy and climate policy should be informed by a careful and thorough analysis to identify where they exist, and where they do not. Consequently, it is unfortunate that the entire concept of co-benefits, or multiple objectives as they are increasingly termed, is dismissed in this article based on one, incompletely worked out, example.



As a country deeply vulnerable to climate impacts, India should be on the side of an effective climate agreement, and argue for more collective global mitigation. However, as a developing country, India cannot sacrifice its development potential. This is precisely where the ideas of co-benefits and historical responsibility are so salient. Co-benefits help define how far India can go towards mitigation without sacrificing development.



Being seen as contributing is important because it enables India to put further pressure on developed countries to undertake even more serious mitigation commitments. However, if there is undue pressure on India to enhance action beyond the limits of co-benefits, then historical responsibility is the primary tool through which to ensure that such additional pressure is not displaced onto India.



In sum, historical responsibility is critical for India and should be robustly used to make sure that global pressures remain on the developed world for more aggressive action. However, focusing on responsibility alone, as Kirit S Parikh and Jyoti K Parikh do, ignores the reality of the Paris Agreement, and the fact that India is a deeply vulnerable country that stands to gain from more effective global mitigation efforts.


Click here to read the article.


India Acting Alone Will Not Prevent Climate Change




The authors argue that the responsibility of preventing global warming should not fall upon developing countries.




What we have shown is that even if one does not consider historic emissions from 1850 onwards, we can consider “accumulated liability” from 1990 onwards as a basis for CBDR [Common but Differentiated Responsibilities]. This can be a legitimate argument for taking the Paris Agreement forward, while still leaving room for India to grow. If we do not save even this much history, fingers will be soon pointed at increasing emissions from India, forgetting that the country needs to grow and that cumulated emissions from the developed countries from 1990 onwards are still very large.



While objecting to equal per capita allocation, Dubash and Khosla (2016) refer to studies by German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU) (2009) and EcoEquity and Stockholm Environment Institute (2016) ... the EcoEquity study considers that the emissions of those whose per capita income is less than $7,500 should not be considered while allocating responsibility. India’s per capita income has been way below this figure.



While calculating the responsibility of countries, one needs to factor in the absorptive capacity of the global environment as well. In all the talk of equity and climate justice, this issue is not discussed. Science is being trumped by diplomacy. Net emissions accounting for the global sink capacity is an important and the correct explanatory narrative, which unfortunately is not yet being discussed systematically.



Dubash and Khosla (2016) take one sentence out of context—that the “notion of co-benefits is not strictly applicable to conditions in India”—and say that we reject the idea of co-benefits …  It is obvious we were comparing the co-benefits from renewable power with those from coal-based power. The power sector is the most relevant, accounting for a 44% of India’s GHG emissions, including land use, land-use change, and forestry, in 2010 (MOEFCC 2015), and it has to take major action to fulfil India’s commitments made in Paris.



We had compared the co-benefits of employment and local air pollution from solar power and from coal power, and shown that in India’s conditions, solar power does not provide more employment as it may require less people for operating plants. The cost of reducing local air pollution from a coal-based plant would not compensate for the higher cost of a solar plant.



Dubash and Khosla (2016) question the assessment of costs of meeting the contributions stated in India’s official document. They point out that “energy security” is an important co-benefit…  Our model accounts for energy security in terms of a changing import bill, rebound effects, and macroeconomic consequences, while satisfying the multiple objectives of various human development indicator targets.



Dubash and Khosla (2016) find our questioning of the co-benefits of renewable energy versus coal very problematic, saying it deprives “India of key strategic concepts for international negotiation.” They do not explain how. Nor do they explain what these concepts are.



Claiming lots of co-benefits without detailed and quantitative work will undermine the efforts India is putting in, and also reduce the level of financial help we get. We believe our analysis strengthens India’s case for finance and technology, not weakens it. What weakens it is mentioning co-benefits without quantifying them.



Emissions from burning coal in power plants play a relatively small part in overall pollution. An Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur study suggests that road dust contributes 38% of air pollution, the transport sector 20%, biomass and waste burning 12%, and industry, including power generation, 11% of PM 2.5 pollution in Delhi. Increasingly, coal plants will be shifted away from urban areas to protect people’s health.



We believe that India must take strong and ambitious actions in a cooperative spirit. However, given the levels of India’s emissions, a lot would be needed to be done by the developed world to make a dent on the 20 global target, let alone the 1.50 target mentioned in the Paris Agreement. India needs to keep up pressure on the developed countries to deliver far more.


Click here to read the article.


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