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Sunday, July 12, 2009

India blinks over cuts in emission

Backs Down On Key Principles It Had Held 'Non-Negotiable'

New Delhi: Has India blinked in the climate change negotiations? It seems so, going by the stand taken at the Major Economies Forum (MEF) meeting in Italy.
    India has gone back on some of its key principles—such as a refusal to accept emission caps—that it held to be non-negotiable until just before the G8 meet.
    In the course of some tough negotiations, India appears to have bent a bit in the face of pressure from the industrialized countries. The biggest compromise at the MEF was to accept that all countries would work to reduce emissions in a bid to prevent global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees above preindustrialization levels.

    When this declaration, signed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, is turned into targets for the various countries, this may imply substantial emission reduction targets for India even if the rich countries take a hefty 80% cut in their own emissions by 2050. While an 80% cut is the most ambitious target ever considered for the developed world, India and China would still be faced with large cutbacks.
    So far, India has insisted that the science behind the two-degree target has been questioned even by the UN climate science panel. It has made it clear that unless rich nations put figures on the table about the sort of reductions they are willing to accept collectively by 2020, and then again by 2050, India would not
agree to any commitments for the long term which the twodegree agreement places.
    This acceptance in the MEF declaration, several Indian observers told TOI, would bind India's hands as it goes into talks at the formal UN negotiations. India has, for the
first time, officially agreed that there is a global target and it may, in due course, spell out what it will take to reach it. Now, the global target of emission cuts, instead of equity, will become the overarching argument in the negotiations, an observer explained.

    INDIA'S INITIAL STAND: Unwilling to accept carbon emission caps, insisted that all monetary assistance to check emissions be routed through UN; not ready to allow scrutiny of indigenously funded
climate change projects
    At the last Major Economies Forum (MEF)
in Mexico, India refused to budge on these issues
    At G8 summit, India said it relented as the MEF declaration was only a 'political' statement and US prez Barack Obama clarified it was not a 'negotiating forum'
    In best-case scenario,
India has given away bargaining chips. It may now be under pressure to agree to caps under the goal of limiting temperature rise to 2°C by 2050
India changed stand in 1 month
    Another clear giveaway by India, observers say, was agreeing to put their entire set of climate activities up for international scrutiny. Until now,India has stated that only those actions that are backed by measurable, reportable and verifiable funds and technologies from the rich nations would be up for international scrutiny.
    "If they don't pay for it, why should we allow them to act like big brother and watch over our spending from our own funds?'' an official said, explaining the position earlier and calling it an issue of sovereignty.

    India has also agreed to the idea that it would take action that would bring its emissions down from business-as-usual in the mid-term (read by 2030). So far, India has claimed—and its own as well as World Bank studies have shown—that even on business-as-usual lines, India's per capita emissions in 2030 remain far below those of the rich nations at present. India has always argued that it has no reason to take further action if it is already on a low carbon pathway.
    But, the observers noted, the mention of using per capita emissions-based calculations as the basis of dividing responsibilities has found no mention in the MEF declaration that Manmohan Singh has signed. The word 'equity' which India has always embedded in its arguments also found a weak mention in passing. On the issue of providing finances and technologies, India has also given away more than it
has got in the bargain, observers said. So far, India has claimed, and the Bali Action Plan has laid out, that developing countries will reduce their emissions only if they are enabled by tech and fund transfers.
    This has been watered down in the MEF statement and now such actions will only be 'supported'. "The word 'enabled' meant that action would only be taken when the money was on the table, 'supported' implies we will take action and the money and funds will come at a later date. The trigger value has been lost,'' said one expert.
    Until the last meeting of the MEF in Mexico, all these issues had been non-negotiable for India. So much so, that the negotiations for the MEF statement had ended in a stalemate with India being one of the main countries opposing any text it considered inimical to its interests. It was decided to stretch the backroom negotiations to Italy, days before the heads of
states signed on a statement. Between the Mexico meeting last month and the one in Italy, the Indian government has evidently shifted its goalposts.
    While the MEF statement is not binding on the UN negotiations, it holds huge political value as it has been agreed to by some of the most powerful countries at the table. Even if one assumes some of these were bargaining chips for India to use at the formal climate negotiations, handing over those trump cards so early in the game does not make sense, another observer told TOI.


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