Says India will be one of the biggest beneficiaries

Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh on Monday said that India cannot accept any international agreement without equity and insisted on equitable access to global atmospheric space.

“This is a matter of survival,” he told a press interaction on the opening day of the two-day conference on “Global Carbon Budgets and Equity in Climate Change” here.

Organised by Professor T. Jayaraman, chairperson of the Centre for Science, Technology and Society, School of Habitat Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), and the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF), the conference will debate carbon budgeting and the utilisation of global carbon space, presented in a paper titled “Meeting equity in a finite carbon world” by Tejal Kanitkar, Professor Jayaraman and other experts.

Mr. Ramesh said at Copenhagen last year, support for carbon budgeting came from German Chancellor Angela Merkel and France too had a climate justice proposal which accepted that countries below a certain threshold of emissions and income have different responsibilities. He underscored the need to introduce equity principles and said India would be one of the biggest beneficiaries. India is a perennial late comer in the high growth game, he remarked and added that “we stand to gain maximum from the carbon budget approach since we have not used much carbon space.”

In the next six months in the run-up to the U.N. climate change conference at Cancun, India must take the leadership on the issue of global carbon budgets, he said. India had strong support from the BASIC countries (Brazil, South Africa, India and China) and it was trying to build a larger support base on this issue.

Side agreements

Mr. Ramesh, however, said he was not very optimistic about “an overarching comprehensive global agreement” at Cancun on the issue of carbon budgets and equity but there may be some side agreements. The developed countries had not fulfilled their requirements for financial aid of $30 billion between 2010 and 2012 and till now only about $ six billion to $ seven billion had been pledged and a large part is through aid. India has said that this aid should be for island countries and late developing countries.

Earlier, speaking at the inaugural session, Mr. Ramesh spoke of some wonderful new thinking on the climate change front in academic circles but there was a complete disconnect between this thinking and the negotiators on climate change. He said he was trying to bridge the gap between academic work and policy making and said there should be red lines in negotiations but not in thinking. He said this conference was the beginning of an institutional partnership between the MOEF and TISS to create as many academic centres to think on various issues on climate change.

An international agreement would not be acceptable to a large number of countries if it was not anchored in the principles of equity and/or equitable sharing of atmospheric space, he said. The real challenge was to operationalise what we meant by equity, equitable sharing and access to atmospheric space. He said the BASIC meeting at Rio de Janeiro would discuss this issue in July and there was interest from countries like Indonesia, Argentina and Pakistan. The core negotiating text originally did not contain references to equity or equitable access but the latest draft did mention access to atmospheric space.

He said this conference and the discussion at Rio would try to re-establish the centrality of the idea of equity in the policy discourse. He said other agreements and interests were shadow boxing in the absence of an agreement on equity and the key concept was embedded in carbon budgets. He said this was not going to be easy and there must be an honest attempt for an interflow of ideas from think tanks and use them in policy making. There must be a critical mass of scholars and it was time to expand and get some “unusual suspects” on board vis-a-vis thinking on climate change.

Professor Jayaraman said questions of emissions, energy and equity were central to the debate on climate change. In his paper he had argued that the carbon dioxide emissions were to be treated as the utilisation of the global “carbon space” available in the global atmospheric commons, and should not be seen only in terms of the environment damage that they could cause. “The crucial global climate policy issue today is the current unequal occupation of carbon space with the developed nations having occupied far more than their fair share of carbon space,” the paper added.

The carbon budget perspective was increasingly coming to the fore in analytical discussions of the issues underlying global climate negotiations. Carbon budgets were based on considerations of the total stock of greenhouse gases (GHGs), which was the cumulative sum of both current and future GHG emissions, rather than on annual flows – emissions in a single year.