However, less than twenty-four hours after Prime Minister Modi’s bold declaration, representatives of Climate Action Network South Asia (CANSA) speaking at a Climate Action Network International press briefing on India’s climate change policies insisted that India would continue, even increase, its investment in coal alongside its new commitments to solar energy. Not too surprisingly, “India’s energy security” would remain its top priority. We were shocked (and progressively frustrated) when we heard the panelists respond to a cheeky question on India’s leadership on climate change by stating that India’s submission of an INDC itself was a key diplomatic concession and a demonstration of its leadership.
Neil suggested that CANSA’s statements were most likely a reflection of underlying perspectives held by its representatives. Like other NGOs, CANSA views its stated mission through its own unique lens. Unsurprisingly, all attendees of COP, negotiators, businesspeople, and NGO representatives alike, have their own unique perceptions and distinct backgrounds. They are here to represent their constituencies at home and advance their varying interests.
I had arrived in Paris believing that there would be an “international civil society” that would share a unified voice calling for global climate action even if its members had different priorities in an international climate agreement. In my wildest fantasies, I pictured how all of “international civil society” would rally and represent the people of the world (preferably to the tune of “Do You Hear the People Sing?” in Les Miserables fashion). Now, I realize that while a nebulous international civil society does still exist, it is far more diverse and perhaps more susceptible to its own different national biases than I previously expected.
And above all, politics. Immersed in the intricate technicalities of climate science, the complex legalities of the UNFCCC and its procedures, and the exhaustingly busy atmosphere of the COP, it might be easy for both negotiators and NGO representatives to get lost in this jungle of plenary halls, meeting rooms, press conferences, and working groups. The temptation to succumb to the politics of a highly politicized environment is great, perhaps irresistible. Concessions and sacrifices need to be made to achieve the most important objectives. The artful navigation through those political currents is necessary to make progress and secure any type of agreement in Paris.
Somehow, in spite of these different perspectives and interests, in the thickness of this jungle and amidst the unrelenting political currents, we hope that all these actors marching to different rhythms and tunes will eventually dance to the common melody of the future we want, that the discordant cacophony of national interest will give way to the harmonious symphony of united action, and that a Paris Agreement will be forged.