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India's stand on climate change criticised

By Archana Jyoti in New Delhi
Last updated on: January 06, 2010 19:49 IST
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Challenges posed by climate change hit centre stage in 2009 which saw the government doing a flip-flop ahead of the crucial Copenhagen summit even as the Opposition and experts alleged that India succumbed to pressure from rich nations on emission cuts.

Even as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh maintained that talks on climate change will be based on equity, negotiators were taken aback when Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh pitched for "flexibility" arguing that low per capita emissions were "an accident of history and a failure to control birth rate".

Subsequently, Ramesh declared in Parliament that India was accepting domestic commitments to cut its emissions intensity by 20-25 per cent by 2020, which was a departure from the country's earlier stand.

The government interlocutors had a tough time convincing the detractors, who termed the pre-negotiation statement of the minister as "unilateral cuts aimed to weaken India's negotiating position".

Differences among two key negotiators - Chandrasekhar Dasgupta and ex-environment secretary Pradipto Ghosh -- and the government spilled out into the open just before the crucial talks and after much persuasion from Ramesh, they agreed to participate in the Copenhagen talks.

At the Danish capital, India coordinated with other BASIC partners -- Brazil, South Africa and China -- and signed the Copenhagen Accord which allows "consultation and analysis" among countries for domestic action on climate change.

To allegations that India has opened its domestic actions for international scrutiny, Ramesh countered saying the "consultation and analysis were based on agreed guidelines which protect the national sovereignty".

However, there have been fears as expressed by the country's key climate negotiator Shyam Saran that the Accord might open up a window for another treaty causing death of the Kyoto Protocol which is based on "principle of equity".

India was also accused of ignoring the interest of the least developed countries and small island nations, which will be hit worst due to global warming.

After harping for international fund for its mitigation and adaptation steps, India made a U-turn claiming that it does not need monetary help from the developed nations citing its self-sufficiency to do so.

While India gained little post-Copenhagen, at the domestic front, the government took various steps to tackle the climate change threat with the Prime Minister Council of Climate Change clearing the national Solar Mission and Energy Efficient Mission out of eight missions under the national action plan on climate change.

On the environment front, the much-touted Rs 11,000 crore (Rs 110 billion) Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) fund collected from the states for diversion of forest land in lieu of non-forest purpose was unlocked during the year.

Ramesh also courted controversy on several occasions since he took charge of the ministry in May.  First, in Bhopal when he advised victims of the gas leak tragedy that 25 years after the incident it was time to move on. Later, he said glacier melting phenomenon was not based on "accuracy".

To allegations that India has opened its domestic actions for international scrutiny, Ramesh countered saying the "consultation and analysis were based on agreed guidelines which protect the national sovereignty".

However, there have been fears as expressed by the country's key climate negotiator Shyam Saran that the Accord might open up a window for another treaty causing death of the Kyoto Protocol which is based on "principle of equity".

India was also accused of ignoring the interest of the least developed countries and small island nations, which will be hit worst due to global warming.

After harping for international fund for its mitigation and adaptation steps, India made a U-turn claiming that it does not need monetary help from the developed nations citing its self-sufficiency to do so.

While India gained little post-Copenhagen, at the domestic front, the government took various steps to tackle the climate change threat with the Prime Minister Council of Climate Change clearing the national Solar Mission and Energy Efficient Mission out of eight missions under the national action plan on climate change.

On the environment front, the much-touted Rs 11,000 crore (Rs 110 billion) Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) fund collected from the states for diversion of forest land in lieu of non-forest purpose was unlocked during the year.

Ramesh also courted controversy on several occasions since he took charge of the ministry in May. First, in Bhopal when he advised victims of the gas leak tragedy that 25 years after the incident it was time to move on. Later, he said glacier melting phenomenon was not based on "accuracy".

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Archana Jyoti in New Delhi
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