Monday, December 7, 2009

Climate Change Debate

W hile we welcome some of the arguments of Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh as far as climate change and India’s take are concerned, the government cannot be seen acting under pressure from the developed bloc, especially the US — the worst polluter in the world. As Ramesh rightly said last week in his eloquent exposition of India’s climate change policy, India should take part in international deliberations such as the one under way in Copenhagen from ‘‘a position of strength’’. After all, we are nation on the rise and the world has already appreciated our strength and sustainability, with which comes responsibility too. However, as the minister has pointed out, we lack our own research on climate change and are dependent on Western publications to articulate our position — a great pity for a rising power as us. One may point out that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a UN-instituted body set up in 1998 to study climate change, provides the necessary guidance to India and there is no harm in depending on such august international bodies. But the fact of the matter is that even the IPCC does not undertake any original research and publishes reports based entirely on publications by independent scientists, whose research could be very country-specific and not really helpful to other countries. Therefore, India needs to have its own climate change research regime to talk from a position of strength.

India’s per capita greenhouse gas emission is approximately 1.2 tonnes every year — which is about one-fourth of the global average, about one-tenth of the emissions of the developed bloc and a third of China’s. In other words, compared to the developed countries, our pollution level is very low. In still other words, we are not responsible for climate change, and therefore, the question of compromising on development activities just to please, for instance, the US does not arise at all. India’s traditional argument is that development activities at this stage must remain the top priority while it will also simultaneously make a meaningful contribution to the global endeavour to counter the effects of climate change. However, this time there has been a conspicuous shift in that line of thinking, allegedly under pressure from Washington. Ramesh contends that India, as a responsible global player, should show flexibility and contribute to the making of a pragmatic world agenda. But the question is: At the cost of what? Our development efforts? The government should throw light on the subject and explain to the country that the new flexibility is not an outcome of any extraneous factor such as the US. After last week’s declaration that India will effect a 20-25 per cent cut on greenhouse gas emission over the next decade, there is not much for the country to do at the international level — that is, it is incumbent not on India but on the world’s most polluting countries to help fashion a new climate change policy because it is they who are the main culprits. Should not the UPA government assert so from a position of strength? The topmost priority for India in the matter of climate change should be indigenous research so that the country has its own database to arrive at an India-specific climate change policy. Why so much dependence on the West when the country’s scientists have already proved their mettle in diverse fields? THE SENTINEL

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