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Discovering the 'I' in India's climate change debates

posted on 2023-09-01, 14:43 authored by Samir Saran
This thesis scans India’s development landscape to decipher its key developmental identities, namely: income-poverty identity; energy security identity; industrial identity; entrepreneurial identity; developing nation identity; and emerging nation identity. These basket of identities which co-exist alongside a diverse range of motivations, perceptions and expectations will influence India’s domestic development agenda as well as the global emissions trajectory and will challenge any attempt to construct a cogent Indian position at international climate change negotiations. The thesis deploys a mixed methodology through the use of media-content analysis and semi-structured interviews to uncover and critically analyse the role and presence of these developmental identities within the climate change discourse in India and their influence on India’s negotiating stance at international climate forums. This allows us to evaluate the central hypothesis of this research, which argues that India struggles to tackle its energy requirements, larger development goals and climate change imperatives, all together, due to the variety of factors it needs to accommodate while formulating its policies and negotiating stance. The central inquiry of this thesis which seeks to determine the identity or identities that dominate the Indian position on climate change can thus be answered. The research locates the Indian identity on climate change at the proverbial golden median of a fluid triangle evolving over time. The triangle is broadly shaped by three unmistakable vectors: India’s aspiration for global leadership; its growing appetite to create an industrial and entrepreneurial economy; and, the continuing attempt to respond to the challenges of mass poverty and deprivation. The research avers that far from hiding behind its poverty, in its attempt to assume global leadership, India actually struggles to hide its poverty at climate negotiations. This identity based approach to understand the motivations and drivers of any country’s response to climate change imperatives and the rich data sets collected in the course of this research, are a humble but significant contribution to the study of the politics of climate change.



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