Saturday, April 9, 2011

Legally binding emission cuts on India's favour? Comment on Environment Minister's speech

For last couple of months, floods of news coming from flower revolutions and tsunami (and nuclear reactor crisis) pushed the climate change news to the back seat. But there is no doubt that we have no escape from this eventual reality and have to deal with it today or tomorrow. Especially when the world is looking towards the decisions of developing countries, our responsibility is increasing day by day.

It is true that the criteria of historical responsibility (developed nations emitted so much green house gases to become to reach today's position and because of that it is their responsibility to fix it) and per head emission levels (total green house gas emission from a country/ total population of that country) will favour Indian position. But these arguments are already run its rounds in climate round talks, moreover is it correct to cling to these positions forever?

The question is are we ready to accept legally binding emission cuts or not? Unlike many other rules, which are made only to break it, once it is legally binded on us we have to follow it.

We can offer hundreds of reasons on why we can't accept a binding emission cut, starting right from the backwardness of the country (where many part close to more worse than sub-Saharan Africa) to the need for   an industrial growth. But the question is will these arguments satisfy the international community? Do you think any other nation will be ready to accept emission cuts if India and China are not ready to do that? Obviously they too have the responsibility to care of their industry (especially when they are competing against Asia, latin America and Africa).

It is in this situation we have to analysis Environment Minister, Jairam Ramesh's, remarks in the recent CII conclave.
India should negotiate from its position of strength and take a leadership role on the issue instead of being "lectured" by the West as it is "moving along a low carbon growth path", said environment minister Jairam Ramesh on Saturday.
Rolling the ball back and forth will set the ball in motion, but that is not enough to score the goal. If everyone is sticking to their position there will not be any deal. This is not an issue which is affecting only one or two nation. Even if one nation stopped all the emissions they have to suffer the consequences of emission from other nations.

In fact India is in a unique position in climate change issue. We have 1.2bn+ people (more than 17% of world's population) but doesn't cover a proportional area in the earth. Even if China have more than 1.3bn+ people it is much larger than India. US only have 1/4th of population of India but much larger than India. Now consider the effect of pollution and climate change problems in this densely populated country. Already the condition of air and water is not so good and the forest size is decreasing day by day. In such a situation, unchecked global warming will not be in India's favour.
"I can assure you we are not taking on any legally- binding commitment under international duress. We should take on commitments only because it is in our interest," he said.
It is true that every nation will look for their interests. But isn't it also true that this is in out interest also? If we are not ready to accept the responsibility of cutting the emissions, aren't we losing a major battle even before its really start? Moreover if we are not ready to cut our emissions, then how can we advise other nations on cutting emissions?
"What may reflect internationally will be dependent on what other countries are prepared to give as far as their commitments are concerned".
If we are looking for 'what other countries are prepared to give, as far as their commitments are concerned' then they will also be looking towards a similar commitment from India. In such a situation there are only limited options - you can commit yourself; escape from the process itself (and become alone and crying baby in international stage) or you can make an agreement with other major emitters and torpedo the complete process itself. I dont think last two are good solutions.
has to take the developing world on board on the issue and at the same time engage developed world. "We are the bridge player in many of these cases. So, it is a fine balancing act", he said.
In this case I don't think we are a bridge player anymore. Especially after small island nations made their own group and pushing for quantitative emission cuts. After they will be the one to look for other countries to sustain their life if sea level raised beyond a point- due to rising temperatures.
To the corporate sector, he suggested the need to take on the environmental issue "far more seriously" than it has in the past as it is related to public health and climate change. The issue has to be embedded into the thinking process and "intrinsic" to business and growth.
This is the best point I find in his speech. It is no longer about whether we need it or not, but how far and how fast we are ready to implement it. What Indian negotiators can do is - to negotiate for maximum clean energy technology transfers and international funding for clean technology development.

But it is the responsibility of Indian business act on it. There is no doubt that Indian business will suffer even if India escaped from (I cant can't say its an escape) legally binding emission cuts and developed nations agreed to it. As developed nations also have the responsibility to protect their own business interests, they will make sure that goods and services from the countries, which are not legally binded on carbon emission treaties, are not entering (or not competitive) their shores. So it is high time for Indian business class to realize the importance of it and starting thinking about implementation.


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