Friday, October 30, 2009

>India look for ways to strengthen climate talks hand

New Delhi - India may be preparing for long-running climate change talks that go well beyond the Copenhagen Summit in December, as it is starting to enter long term regional and bilateral pacts which will reinforce its negotiating firepower when it faces western nations.

While keeping an optimistic face on the prospect of a convincing roadmap for the future being hammered out at the U.N. Copenhagen meeting, India looks to be on a two-track journey, one path of which has emerged from the possibility no substantive multilateral deals are struck in Denmark.

Last week it signed a five-year pact with China--another country accused of paying scant respect to the environment in its pursuit of growth--under which they will among other things formalize exchanges of view on international climate change negotiations.

That agreement stresses that the U.N. framework convention on climate change and its Kyoto Protocol are the most appropriate vehicles for addressing climate change.

Also last week, China harshly criticized the EU and Japan for trying to drop the Kyoto Protocol as the basis for a climate deal, warning the Dec. 7-18 Copenhagen summit would fail if they didn't recant.

The Kyoto agreement specifically excludes developing countries for having to make binding cuts to their venting of greenhouse gases, something both India and China insist is enshrined in Copenhagen deals.

The Indian government says India's per capita greenhouse gas emissions are 1.1 tons a year, compared to 20 tons in the U.S. and 10 tons in the EU.

China, too, consistently argues that Western nations should shoulder the major burden of climate change efforts due to their higher per capita emissions and earlier industrialization.

China's latest stance is to say it will impose domestic targets for reducing its carbon intensity--the volume of carbon dioxide emissions per unit of gross domestic product--but so far it hasn't come up with any figures.

If and when a joint China-India stance on carbon intensity levels will emerge remains to be seen.

"Regional and cross regional deals to address climate and promote particular clean energy objectives will be an important aspect of a global decarbonization move," said John Topping, president of the Washington-based Climate Institute.

"The recent joint declaration between India and China leads to collaboration on clean energy development, and investment it can be a forerunner of some very important moves on the way to a greenhouse benign economy," he said.

It's not only with China that India has forged an alliance to ensure talk with one voice at Copenhagen.

India also recently said it had a united front with its neighbors in South Asia, an area particularly vulnerable to climate change, and one holding about 20% of the global population.

India environment minister Jairam Ramesh, speaking after a meeting of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, or SAARC, environment ministers, said that the grouping agreed it should not deviate from the Kyoto Protocol or the Bali Action Plan on climate change.

Such agreements at regional level, Topping feels, could help India go a long way.

"It is an internationally accepted norm to form various blocks to drive home your point at a global forum," a member of India's negotiating panel for Copenhagen said, on condition of not being named.