10/10/09

NEW SCRIPT FOR INDIA ON CLIMATE CHANGE






Published: October 3, 2009 



NEW DELHI — When the United Nations convened its summit meeting on climate change last month, China and the United States, the two most important countries at the negotiating table, hewed to mostly familiar scripts, making promises without making too many specific commitments. Less familiar was the script followed by the third most important country at the table, India.
India’s public stance on climate change is usually predictable — predictably obstinate and unwilling to compromise, at least according to many industrialized nations. But at the United Nations, India’s delegation toned down its usual criticisms of the industrialized world, presented new plans to reduce India’s emissions and sought to reposition the country, in the words of the environment minister, as a “deal maker,” not a “deal breaker.”
The shift comes as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is pushing India to adopt a more internationalist posture on issues like climate change and trade as he seeks to expand India’s global stature at a time when declining American influence is altering the geopolitical balance of power.
Mr. Singh’s government has concluded that addressing climate change is intertwined with addressing domestic priorities like pollution, energy security and even national security.
Moreover, analysts say, India’s rigid, hard-line posture has backfired; the country has been typecast as intransigent, even as its putative ally on the issue, China, a far bigger source of emissions, has succeeded in creating the impression that the Chinese are more active and engaged.
“We cannot compromise our basic national position on protecting our prospects for growth, but we can see things that can be done,” said Nitin Desai, a member of the prime minister’s special advisory council on climate change. “The signal that I get is that India is not going to be a spoiler at Copenhagen. If a reasonable deal can be worked out, they will be there.”
With less than three months before final talks commence in Copenhagen, many analysts are deeply pessimistic that a comprehensive deal can be reached. But others are already discussing Plan B’s that might give credit for domestic programs, like one proposed by India, instead of creating a global set of binding limits like those in the existing, but faltering, Kyoto Protocol.
India’s close alliance with China — they are co-leaders of the bloc of developing nations — has been rooted in their shared interest in protecting economic growth and has created the impression that the two countries share a similar emissions profile, but, in fact, they do not. China is a far bigger polluter. India’s environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, said India had one-fifth of China’s emissions, measured either in total or per capita amounts. Over all, China accounts for roughly 23 percent of all global emissions, while India accounts for less than 5 percent.
Those disparities are why some analysts say the relationship is subtly shifting. China has now overtaken the United States as the biggest emitter in the world and is under pressure to assume responsibilities more in line with industrialized countries.
India is worried that it could face similar expectations, based on its population size and potential for future growth, even though its levels of economic development and emissions lag far behind those of China.
David G. Victor, an energy analyst who has studied India’s situation, predicted that the Indian and Chinese positions could gradually separate.
As demands on developing countries increase, Mr. Victor predicted, their bloc will fragment. Low-per-capita emission countries, possibly led by India, may try to differentiate themselves from countries like Mexico, Brazil and China, which have more advanced economies and higher emissions.
“The Indians need to be very careful that they are seen as a different kind of country,” said Mr. Victor, who also teaches at the University of California, San Diego.
Mr. Ramesh, India’s environment minister, said China and India were closely coordinating their positions on the negotiations, but he also conceded that China was winning the public relations battle.
China has raced way ahead of us, both in terms of emissions and in conveying the impression they are doing a lot on climate change,” he said in an interview in New Delhi before he left for the United Nations summit meeting.
Mr. Ramesh said India’s basic demands for signing an international accord were unchanged: that industrialized nations agree to significant emissions reductions by 2020 and also provide financial and technical assistance to the developing world. India also remains opposed to accepting any mandatory caps on emissions.
But regardless of the fate of the agreement, he said, India was moving forward anyway. His ministry would soon submit legislation to the Indian Parliament that would tighten fuel efficiency standards, set voluntary targets to improve energy efficiency, push ahead with solar power and expand the use of clean-coal technology in power plants.
“I want to be aggressive, because, frankly, we are a country that is climate dependent,” he said, alluding to the vulnerability of India to rising sea waters and potentially disruptive annual monsoons. “We don’t like to think about it, but we are vulnerable.”
He added: “Our prime minister’s clear message to me was, ‘India has to be part of the solution. We may not have caused the problem, but we have to be part of the solution.’ ”
At the United Nations, Mr. Ramesh focused on practical issues like expanding forest cover, extending a treaty program encouraging investment in clean technologies and expanding technological cooperation.
“I think a lot of people welcomed that as a positive contribution,” said Michael A. Levi of the Council on Foreign Relations. “It showed engagement on substance rather than rhetoric.”
For years, Indian negotiators defined climate change through the geopolitics of economic justice and national sovereignty, arguing that the industrialized world had a historical responsibility to bear the brunt of any global response while equating mandatory caps on emissions as being tantamount to capping India’s economic growth.
These arguments are still deeply felt in India and continue to shape the domestic political debate; Mr. Singh was sharply criticized by some members of Parliament after he agreed with other leaders last summer in Italy that nations should prevent the average global temperature from rising more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit from its current level.
His critics called the deal a trap to limit India’s development.
Mr. Ramesh said part of his job was to build a new domestic political consensus about how India could constructively address climate change without damaging its national interests because “without a solid domestic consensus, or even a domestic constituency, we cannot even think about engaging internationally.”
“And this is also true of the United States,” he added. “It’s true of all democracies.”


 



No hay comentarios:

Publicar un comentario en la entrada