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India faces climate ‘isolation’ warns ex minister

Prime Minister Modi may have to make concessions and agree emission cuts at UN talks if old alliances breaks down

By Ed King

India faces isolation at UN climate change negotiations unless it relaxes its famously hardline attitude towards accepting greenhouse gas emission cuts.

That’s the view of Jairam Ramesh, India’s minister for the environment between 2009-2011, and the man credited with transforming Delhi’s attitude to global warming during his time in office,

“In climate change, India now runs the risk of being very seriously isolated by China, Brazil and South Africa which make up the BASIC,” he told a meeting at the Observer Research Foundation think tank.

“India’s position in my view should be far more nuanced, far more proactive and flexible than has been the case.”

Environment chiefs from the BASIC countries are set to meet in New Delhi on August 7-8 to thrash out their collective position on addressing carbon pollution.

All four countries have seen huge increases in their greenhouse gas emissions linked to fast economic growth since 1990.

Traditionally the four emerging economies have formed a tight unit at UN talks, pushing back on demands from developed countries they cut spiralling levels of carbon pollution.

Report: China, India and Brazil could ‘derail’ UN climate deal

Citing the UN principle of Common But Differentiated Responsibility, India has said its high levels of poverty and low development levels means it should do less than other more advanced states.

But Ramesh suggested new diplomatic moves by the US to engage China on climate change could alter that dynamic.

High pollution levels in major cities and an increasingly restless population could also change the thinking in Beijing, he said.

“China is the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases and there is a name and shame in being the largest emitter and second, there is a larger constituency at home that is demanding cleaner water and air.

“They will play the multilateral card. They already have bilateral co-operation with the U.S. For example, the two countries have decided to work together on phasing out hydrofluorocarbons, which India has been reluctant to do.”

India’s government says it will play a more proactive role at the next round of UN talks, scheduled to take place in Lima this December.

Fears that the country’s aged energy infrastructure will slow economic growth, and that climate impacts could become more severe, are major concerns for policy makers.

Speaking this week Indian scientist Rajendra Pachauri, who leads the UN’s IPCC climate science panel, said the country urgently needed to invest in sustainable forms of low carbon energy.

“I am really concerned about the growing dependence of India on oil imports and the present situation in Iraq is adding to it,” he said.

“India has the largest number of people lacking access to electricity and clean cooking fuels in the world.”

Prime Minister Modi has targeted a ‘saffron’ energy revolution, using the country’s plentiful solar, hydro and wind resources, although critics are wary given his historical links to big oil.

According to a government report published in May, the country needs US$ 834 billion to place its economy on a low carbon trajectory by 2030, including a total overhaul of the electricity grid.

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  • NicholB

    Regions with lots of sun and wind should exploit this resource of the future. Not try to base their growth on the fossil energies of the past. It is to their own advantage. It will make them look good. It is easier for them, as they have not yet been shackled to a system totally based on fossil energy. In some sense it is more difficult for the rich countries that need to transition: cut away the old fossils-based system. India has the advantage of an old system that needs upgrade anyway. They can jump ahead.

  • http://www.mapschile.cl andres pirazzoli

    @kartashok:disqus that is the exact interpretation of CBDR some Indian diplomats have flagged for 20 years… Hopefully Minister Ramesh´s view will find traction in the Indian govt. We all need to do our share. From USA to India, to Chile. Not cutting carbon will force our citizen into even harsher conditions.

    • kartashok

      Carbon dioxide is healthy and there are many worse things to worry about, like arsenic, mercury, etc. You want less carbon dioxide? PLANT TREES!! No cuts in development. This whole climate change is real BUT the idea of the elites that CARBON DIOXIDE IS THE DEVIL’S BREATH IS TOTALLY FALSE! The West has destroyed the environment to develop themselves and now they want to maintain their developed status by telling the third world to remain poor. Solar energy is a giant waste of money, because you need rare earth materials for it to work, so EVEN SOLAR ENERGY is NOT sustainable.

  • Kuni Leml

    Science has spoken. When it comes to global warming there is no debate, there is not discussion, and there is no opinion. There are those who want to commit mass murder on a global scale with global warming, and those who do not to commit mass murder on a global scale. India’s high levels of poverty and low development levels, has no relevance to the discussion.

    If India wants to address the issue if its high levels of poverty and low development levels, India needs to implement the only policy that creates and maintains a middle class and shared prosperity: Strong unions, a very progressive tax system, and proper regulations vigorously enforced. I would suggest that India emulate The New Deal instead of whining.

    Furthermore, India needs to accept personal responsibility, not foreign aid, when it comes to dealing the impacts of global warming.

    India should not get a single red cent in aid until it significantly reduces its coal emissions, which are not only affecting the climate, but also allowing Conservatives to use India’s inaction as an excuse to do nothing here.

    If India needs money so badly to address the problem, it can get it from the Jindal Steel and Power Limited and the other Indian companies that made $32 billion in windfall profits after corrupt Indian politicians let said companies pillage and loot the Indian countryside.