By Saurabh Gandhi:
India has been facing widespread criticism both from abroadÂ and from withinÂ regarding her stand on global climate change negotiations. The criticism has gone ahead and dubbed India as the biggest roadblock on the path to a greener world. All of this reached its peak in November this year when in a submission to United Nations a few days before the annual climate talks at Warsaw in Poland, India made it clear that they were opposed to the developing countries having to cut emissions. So why is India “blocking” (if you may call it that) these initiatives? Here we look at a few reasons why India is right in her stand:
1. Historical emissions – While it may be true that presently half of global carbon emissions are from developing countries, what also needs to be stressed upon is a large percentage (about 70%, if our Minister of Environment and Forests, Jayanthi Natarajan, is to be believed) of the emissions that are currently swirling around are historical emissions, for which the developed countries are primarily responsible. So it is very convenient for them to say that only present emissions should be taken into account.
2. Principle of Common But Differentiated Responsibility (CBDR) — There has been huge hue and cry over India’s objection to the proposal of formally discussing HCFC’s emission cuts in the Montreal Protocol. There is a history to it. HCFC’s are greenhouse gases that cause global warming. The issue of global warming is within the domain of the UNFCCC, which agreed to the concept of CBDR, meaning that all countries would work together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the world but with the rider that there would be differentiated responsibilities for developed and developing countries. If the issue of HCFC’s emission cuts is not dealt with at the UNFCCC but the Montreal Protocol, then the developing countries would be at a disadvantage.
3. Climate Finance — The United Nations had set up the Green Climate Fund (GCF), which would finance the changes that various countries would have to take up in order to ensure that they reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases. The fact to be noted here is that the capitalisation of the Green Climate Fund has not happened at all. Developed countries that made a commitment earlier have now started talking of alternative sources of funding.
4. Technology — It is common knowledge that emission cuts will require adoption of newer technology which is not readily available with the developing countries like ours. The developed world has these technologies and it was agreed upon in the Vienna Conference of Parties (COP) that there would be sharing of these new green technology with the developing countries. But alas, that has not happened!
5. Economic and Social Reasons — Lastly, even if there is transfer of technology as it was agreed upon, the Indian industry would be forced to buy the technology from companies in the U.S. and elsewhere at a very high cost to make the transition and without adequate financial support, this would only make them less competitive. Add to that the fact the HCFC’s whose use is sought to be reduced, is used in cold storages, inhalers, armaments, tanks, and aircrafts. Again, if Jayanthi Natarajan is to be believed, then there are very few alternative to these gases and those which are there, if used would escalate costs to up to 20 times the present costs.
All the above facts prove that India’s stand is one which is based not only on principles of equity but on a fundamental concern on certain issues, which if addressed would certainly entail higher cooperation from developing countries. This is not to say that India should not take any measures to fulfil her responsibility towards the environment but is it too much to expect that the developed countries who have in their race to growth ignored environmental concerns for decades, to come up and play a larger role in not only cutting emissions but also helping the developing countries to do so without causing harm to their development needs?
In order to know more about India’s position on the multi-faceted issue and the steps that it has taken, this interview of Jayanthi Natarajan in The Hindu can be looked at where she rightly says, “India is not a nay-sayer on climate change.”