(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
December 13, 2009
Sauce for the
Goose; Not for
THE minister for environment and
Ramesh�s announcement in parliament of a new Indian position on climate
namely a unilateral quantitative target for slowing down the growth of
emissions, has stirred a new debate in
DEVELOPED WORLD SETS
EXTREMELY LOW TARGETS
It seems to have gone almost
entirely unnoticed that the
minister�s speech contained no mention of deep cuts in the developed
emissions as called for by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
(IPCC). In the run-up to
Some �non-negotiables� were
In sharp contrast, the
Even these measly cuts by developed countries will not materialise in real terms, since actual cuts could be discounted against supposedly equivalent tree-plantation or other mitigation action in developing countries. Again, no red lines on offsets.
On fund transfers, US President Obama has proudly declared that there is growing consensus among developed countries on putting together a climate fund of 10 billion dollars and that the US would make �suitable contributions� towards it. This compared to the 100 billion dollars per year required as per EU estimates. No red lines here either.
MISLEADING THE PEOPLE
So what exactly is the government negotiating for in Copenhagen? Is no shift in position or minimum commitment expected from the developed countries in terms of emissions reduction, fund or technology transfers? Why has India announced new measures to reduce emissions intensity without seeking anything in return, such reciprocity being the very purpose of any negotiation?
The major answer provided in the minister�s speech, and one he has been repeating often, in his letter to MPs, his leaked letter to the PM and in numerous press interviews, is that India needs to take unilateral emission control measures because India is one of the major victims of climate change. �India, of all the 192 countries in the world, owes a responsibility not to the world but to itself to take climate change seriously. We are not doing the world a favour. Please forget Copenhagen; forget the UN. We have to do it in our own self-interest.�
That such an idea can be advanced seriously stretches one�s credulity and one may be forgiven for therefore concluding that the real intention is to mislead the Indian public. Climate itself, and thus climate change, are global phenomena: the monsoons and their vagaries, frequently referred to by the minister, are not purely Indian nor are they caused in the atmosphere above India only. Erratic rainfall, extreme weather events, melting glaciers and rising sea levels inundating coastal areas will all occur in India not just because of Indian emissions but due to changes in the global climate resulting from accumulated greenhouse gases emitted mostly by developed countries. These impacts will occur even if India reduces its emissions to zero! It is completely fallacious to argue, and highly irresponsible of those in positions of authority to convey to the public, that Indian actions alone can tackle climate change impacts in India.
This writer has long argued, including in this publication and as part of a platform of academics, thinktanks and civil society organisations, that India does indeed need to arrive at and declare a quantified target for slowing down emissions growth rates, but conditional upon the developed countries committing to the steep cuts required. Not only does the science demand such action by the large developing countries, such a stance would also help them to occupy the moral high ground and leave developed countries with no excuse not to undertake deep emissions cuts.
ABDICATION OF DEMAND
FOR RECIPROCAL MEASURES
One�s quarrel is therefore not per se the offer to reduce emissions intensity over the next decade --- although modalities and priorities still need to be discussed, particularly as regards reducing inequalities in energy access among sections of society --- but the unilateral nature of the declaration, the abdication of any demand for reciprocal measures and deep emission cuts by developed countries and the open license given to them to change the terms of reference in Copenhagen. Non-negotiables for India should go along with non-negotiables for the developed countries: sauce for the goose must also be sauce for the gander!
The minister�s claim that the new stance represents a bold and major departure from the traditional ponderousness of Indian diplomacy, waiting for the last minute before arriving at even tepid decisions, makes a virtue of necessity and is completely belied by the very manner of its announcement. India could have made such a conditional offer much earlier and to more telling effect on the negotiations process as a leading voice of the developing world. Instead, India arrived at a flawed decision, the last major developing country to do so, having been dragged there by China and pressured by earlier declarations by Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and Indonesia. No encomiums greeted the Indian announcement in the international media or by other governments. Only President Obama mentioned it, and well he might, for he can now breeze through Copenhagen comfortably with no pressure on him, certainly not from India. India has gained little by its gesture, not even the few brownie points it may have expected. On the contrary, it may have squandered a crucial opportunity to exert some positive influence on the global climate negotiations process.