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India may face pressure to reduce greenhouse gases

R. Ramachandran

New Delhi: As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sets out for Hokkaido, Japan, on Monday to attend the G-8 Plus Five Summit and the Major Economies Meeting (MEM) on Energy Security and Climate Change, he should expect immense pressure upon India and other developing countries at these forums for commitments to quantified reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the post-Kyoto period after 2012.

India is participating in the Summit as one of the five “Outreach Countries” that include India, China, Brazil, South Africa and Mexico and as one of the 17 major economies that include Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Korea, South Africa, the U.K. and the U.S. as well as the E.U. (and the EC).

Notwithstanding Dr. Singh’s statement at the last G-8 Summit at Heiligendamm in 2007 that the per capita emissions of India will at no time exceed that of developed countries, the developed countries, the U.S. in particular, would like to see a definitive shift from this qualitative premise to quantified reduction targets, especially after its recent announcement of the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) on June 30. The NAPCC too seeks only a qualitative shift towards a low carbon developmental path. Indeed, it would seem that the deadline of June 2008 was set to enable India to present the NAPCC at the Summit and the MEM.

The U.S. perspective on global negotiations on climate change following the Bali Road Map of December 2007 was articulated by Paula J. Dobriansky, Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs, and Dr. Harlan L. Watson, Senior Climate Negotiator and Special representative of the U.S. Department of State at the Conference last month on ‘A New Global Climate Deal? Achieving Real Collaboration for a Low Carbon Future’ hosted by Chatham House, the home of the British Royal Institute of International Affairs. Dr. Watson and Dr. (Ms.) Dobriansky were keynote speakers at the Conference.

“Developed countries alone cannot solve climate change … all major economies must commit to action that will cut global emissions,” she stressed and added that the U.S. wanted a comprehensive deal on climate change by December 2009. “We support the Bali roadmap and we want a new approach to address the key elements of the Bali roadmap: mitigation, financing, adaptation and technology.” “The U.S.,” she said, “is prepared to enter into binding international commitments to reduce GHG emissions, as part of a global agreement in which all major economies undertake binding international commitments, recognising that these commitments would be differentiated according to national characteristics.” She, however, did not elaborate on what kind of differentiated commitments the U.S. envisaged and what kind of commitments the U.S. itself was wiling to accept.

Echoing this U.S. position, Dr. Watson quoted the 2008 U.S.–E.U. Summit Declaration of June 10, which said: “The U.S. and the E.U. will pursue the search for global agreement on tackling climate change through the MEM and the G8, feeding into the international negotiations under the auspices of the UNFCCC.”

Pointing out that the 17 economies participating in the MEM comprise over 80 per cent of the world’s GHG emissions, over 80 per cent of world’s consumption of energy and over 80 per cent of world’s economy, Dr. Dobriansky said: “We are looking forward to a strong statement from Major Economies leaders in July. We hope, in particular, that the leaders can reach agreement on shared long-term global GHG reduction goal and on a stated willingness to have mid-term national goals and plans reflected in binding international commitments…If we exempt major economies from mitigating emissions, it will be impossible to reverse emissions globally.”

She stated that the political consensus in the U.S. was that, for any agreement to be effective and economically sustainable, it must include all major economies and added that the basic tenets of the U.S. approach to climate negotiations was bipartisan and would extend beyond the Bush Administration.

Dr. Dobriansky also referred to the creation of a new international Clean Technology Fund (CTF), recently announced by President Bush, to make clean energy technologies more widely available to the developing countries. According to her, the U.S. Congress has apparently been requested to authorise $2 billion towards this and the U.K. and Japan had also pledged substantial amounts for this.

Just this week, before the G8 Summit gets under way in Japan, the World Bank, which will administer this Fund, formally approved the setting up of the CTF. The U.S. and the European Union had jointly proposed an agreement under the Doha Round of WTO negotiations for eliminating tariff and non-tariff barriers for climate-friendly technologies and services.

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