There are whispers in the corridor in Lima that India may announce some unprecedented decision that will change the course of the ongoing climate negotiations in the lead up to Paris agreement. Nevertheless, India is a strategic player at the Lima climate conference, COP20

India’s Union Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar is probably in the final stage of packing his bags for that long flight to South Pacific coast. He is said to be arriving in Lima on December 6, for the high-level ministerial talks at this year’s UN climate conference. A 17-member government delegation, led by Mr Javadekar, is set to negotiate at the climate talks on several key areas like adaptation, climate finance, and emission reduction targets and so on.

The ongoing climate talks will set the broad parameters of the nature of commitments India and other countries will need to make to address the issue of climate change under a new agreement, to be signed in Paris next year and implemented from 2020.

India is looking to make a massive breakthrough with its plans to boost solar power capacity five-fold to 100 GW by 2030. While this is a clear indication that India is serious about tackling climate change and reducing its relatively small carbon footprint, the country will not make any announcements about its plans to limit emissions at Lima.

India is going through an interesting time. While on one hand India plans to take its solar potential to an unprecedented level it is also securing a 7.2 billion Australian-dollar coal project in the fragile Galilee basin in Australia, on the other hand. While India seeks to portray itself as the champion of renewable energy it is also exploring a complete revision of environmental laws, special fast track dispensation of power and mining projects, self-certification by industry of compliance and diluting the powers of the National Green Tribunal.

Anyway, let’s come back to Lima. So, India is under pressure from governments, CSOs (Civil Society Organisations) and media around the world to come clean on its strategies on emission among many other issues related to climate change, after the US and China collaboratively declared their respective emission-reduction targets for the near future.

Mr Javadekar has said that he and his delegation are coming to COP20 with full confidence and hope that the discussions in Lima will reach a positive conclusion leading to a good Paris agreement.

New Delhi has made it clear that the onus of reducing the amount of carbon that is emitted rests with the industrialised countries, and it will oppose any move to shift the burden to developing nations. It has been calling for preservation of the 1992 basis for classifying countries as industrialised and developing, called Common but Differentiated Responsibilities. “We are confident that all developed and developing countries will accommodate the principles of CBDR (Common but Differentiated Responsibilty) and equity in the basic draft elements and decisions of the ad hoc working group on Durban Platform (under which the 2015 agreement will be negotiated)”, Mr Javadekar said.

"This is the first international climate negotiation for India ever since Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister. Many speculated a change in track of India’s negotiations. But, India said that there is no change in its position. Equity and CBDR remains the most important topic. The Cabinet is expected to discuss India’s climate change stance soon and could fine-tune some of its positions, though no major change is expected at present."

India has been a champion of ‘equity’ in the convention. There is growing fatigue around the equity argument. There are apprehensions of it blocking or derailing the prospective deal. The juggernauts of equity, international image and other related questions have forced the Indian government to open its floor for wider participation of civil society. And this has brought in new players like the think-tank of prominent journalists and former bureaucrats in the game. This is for the first time that Indian delegation has kept its doors open for daily interaction with civil society organisations and journalists at COP.

Since the US-China climate agreement, there has been a great deal of interest in India’s plans to tackle carbon emissions. India has been working on its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC). These INDCs are meant to be the voluntarily and domestically determined action these countries will take to fight climate change under a new agreement to be signed in Paris in 2015.

According to a report at The Economic Times, while work on the ‘contributions’ are on in full swing and are likely to be completed over the next few months, a formal declaration can be expected only after March. According to senior government official quoted in the report, the decision of when to submit India’s INDCs, whether March or later in June, will be taken after consultations at the highest level.

An evaluation is underway on India’s progress in meeting the Copenhagen-Cancun pledge of reducing its emissions intensity by 20-25 per cent by 2020. The government is also evaluating the report by the Planning Commission-appointed Expert Group on Low Carbon Economy.

In 2010, India had committed to a 20-25 per cent cut in its carbon intensity by 2020, compared to the levels in 2005. The process to make fresh and enhanced commitments to the international community was in the works for the past few months, with the government commissioning studies to assess and project India’s greenhouse gas emissions. The results of these studies are due in December.

Mr Javadekar is expected to discuss the issue of technology transfer from developed countries to poor countries, when he comes to Lima. He said that although Lima is not the end of the road, the countries must find a collaborative approach to find new clean technologies and resolve the deadlock over Intellectual Property Resources.

India’s ministry of new and renewable energy is working on ramping up the share of country’s solar energy from six per cent to 15 per cent of the energy basket. Progress in happening in several energy-efficient measures, like widening the scope of trading in energy efficiency by including new sectors, is underway. The government is also looking at reworking the National Action Plan on Climate Change to ensure that it is more focussed on addressing impacts of climate change.

India on Wednesday (December 3) made a strong pitch for giving more weightage to ‘adaptation’ measures in the new agreement, which is to be signed in Paris in 2015, rich nations are more obsessed with ‘mitigation’ (cutting emission) efforts and goals. It is clear that India wants the rich nations to play a major role in terms of mitigation whereas the adaptation efforts may compulsorily be made by each and every country of the world with the mandatory support of developed countries in terms of finance and technology transfer.

There are also whispers in the corridor that India may announce an ‘aspirational’ peaking year for greenhouse gas emissions. This is a marked departure from India’s previous pronouncements on actions to combat climate change. But while India is preparing to make this possible move, it is not willing to give up the differentiation between the responsibilities of developed and developing countries when it comes to combating climate change.

How India succeeds in showcasing its efforts will be crucial to determining whether New Delhi has to shoulder the blame if Lima fails to show any tangible progress towards a new global compact to address the challenge of climate change.

(Avik Roy is a Greenpeace activist, a journalist and a negotiator tracker who is currently at Lima, Peru tracking UN climate conference)