The vagaries of climate affect developing nations more than climate change. Economic development is the only means to ensure security for the poorer people of the world, according to economist Arvind Panagariya.

Delivering the fourth SAGE-MSE Endowment lecture on ‘Climate Change and the Developing Countries,' at the Madras School of Economics on Tuesday, Dr. Panagariya said the defences created by developed countries against floods, cyclones and other natural disasters were lacking in developing countries.

Hence developed countries were focussed more on mitigation to combat climate change whereas developing countries had to focus on adaptation measures to protect their people. The conflict between objectives of the two groups was being played out in the climate change issue, he said.

“This is not to discount the fact that climate change also affects developing countries but it is only a second-order effect,” said the Jagdish Bhagwati Chair of Indian Political Economy at Columbia University.

Dr. Panagariya also cautioned against the tendency to bracket India and China in the same category on the climate change issue. India's total emissions and per capita emissions and other significant measures were all only a fraction of the respective numbers for China.

“India is the second largest carbon emitter among developing countries but it is a distant second behind China,” he said.

The 2006 numbers on carbon emissions showed China as contributing to 20.6 per cent of all emissions while India's share was only 4.4 per cent. In terms of tonnes of emissions per capita, China's share was 4.58, while India's was 1.16, he pointed out.

“India is simply not in the same league as China,” he argued, stating that it was strategically wrong to group India with China on this front.

Dr. Panagariya said the developed world should take more active steps towards mitigation while adopting a “relaxed attitude” towards developing countries.

He suggested that the developed countries set carbon emission control goals for 2020. The developing countries would be given credit for voluntary emission reductions but would be exempt from obligations.

China could start adopting mitigation measures from 2020, and India, Brazil and South Africa could start these measures from 2030-2040. Other countries could start from 2050, he suggested.

In the meantime, Dr. Panagariya called for “massive investments in research and development,” for technological solutions to the problem.