Equity and burden sharing are central to the debate on climate change, Vice-President Hamid Ansari said on Thursday, pointing out that while India was home to 17 per cent of the world’s population, it accounted for only four per cent of the global Green House Gas (GHG) emissions. This was much lower than the United States and China, both of which account for over 16 per cent each of global GHG emissions.

Inaugurating the Global Summit on Sustainable Development & Climate Change, organised here by the Observer Research Foundation in collaboration with Rosa Luxembourg Foundation, Mr. Ansari warned that the lack of global agreement on an equitable formula is likely to cause the climate change negotiations to spill over to other multilateral, regional and bilateral negotiating platforms. This, in turn, would further accentuate existing divisions such as north-south, east-west and developed-developing countries.

Describing climate change as one of the most complex problems facing humankind today, he said the issue imposes new challenges for developing countries like India. This could well require negotiating new international, national, political, economic agreements, fashioning new technological interventions, negotiating financial and technological transfers for mitigation and adaptation to climate change.

Stating that the right of every human being to a life of dignity was an incontrovertible premise in this debate, the Vice-President sought to show how India was a low energy consumer. The per capita energy consumption for India was around 18 tonnes of oil-equivalent per person in 2005, while the corresponding figure was 41 in Pakistan, 52 in China, 345 in Mexico, 205 in Brazil and 1881 in the U.S.. Further, in per-capita terms, India’s GHG emission of 1.1. tonnes per annum, miniscule in comparison to over 20 tonnes for the U. S. and over 10 tonnes for most of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries.

While reiterating India’s argument for equity and burden sharing in the debate at the international level, Mr. Ansari also made a case for broadening the debate within the country. Lamenting that the debate has till date been primarily government-focused with some participation from civil society, he said this should be broad-based to include the legislature, people’s groups and grassroot movements so that those directly affected by climate change are involved in the discussion of adaptation and mitigation options. “The debate must be as inclusive as possible to enhance its legitimacy and credibility.”