Why India Declined: Unraveling the Decision Behind COP28 Climate Health Accord


Apurva Dhamankar

12/31/20232 min read

COP stands for Conference of the Parties.

The summit is attended by countries that have signed the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), a treaty that came into force in 1994. 197 countries participated in this convention. The ultimate aim of the UNFCCC is to prevent “dangerous” human interference with the climate system.

The recent COP28 is the 28th annual United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference.

It occurred from November 30, 2023, to December 12, 2023, at Expo City, Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

During this conference, India has declined to sign the COP28 Declaration on Climate and Health

Let's take a look at what these accords stated:

  • It suggested countries to avoid depending on coal power

  • It also suggested countries carry out rapid de-carbonization

  • There was a clause that brought forth the point of drastic waste reduction in the health sector

  • Implement better industry standards regarding procurement and supply chain of healthcare systems

  • Developing healthcare systems capable of handling climate-related impacts caused by the industry

These accords are not legally binding document but rather just a voluntary adoption for the participating countries.

Now India being a developing country has shown tremendous growth in the healthcare sector in recent years. India just like other countries uses cold storage for storing vaccines and medicines.

A clause in these accords outlined a commitment to reducing greenhouse gases for cooling applications in the healthcare sector.

This is something India has strongly opposed which led to them refraining from signing the accords.

Decreasing the use of greenhouse gases in cooling solutions would hinder the growth of medical services.

Another reason for not signing is the time frame in which these changes were expected. India has a net zero goal of 2070 which is a far away but achievable goal. Setting earlier deadlines might just contribute more to increased emissions.

Historically speaking, as you can see from the chart India has contributed less than 4% to global emissions. That sets a moral high ground for us to refrain from signing as a developing nation that is required to provide for a large chunk of the population.

One of the clauses also pointed out that developing countries should triple their investment in renewable energy by 2030, which isn't feasible for countries like India, as 80% of India's energy needs are met by coal, oil, and biomass fuel.

According to a report, the cost of eliminating the use of fossil fuels is estimated to be $900 billion. If India undertook such a project, it would be a wrong decision and it would starve developing sectors of much-needed investments.

As a country at the forefront of development, it is a challenge for us to strike a balance between development and transitioning to renewable energy resources. Also, India is a big exporter of healthcare services, and accepting these accords would be a hit on the economic gains arising from it.

Not only India but the USA also abstained from signing the accords.

For India, the way would be to strike a balance between scaling development and at the same time ensuring that program rollouts reduce pollution and enhance the transition toward clean & green energy.

Thank you.


Atharva Mahadik,

Kautilya, IBS Mumbai.