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Jairam Ramesh digs heels on emission cuts
Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh made an apparent gesture of his anger over the 'pressure' exerted by rich nations at the recent Major Economies Forum in Italy, to force India into agreeing to a '2 degree C cap'.
AS THE visiting US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton listened, Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh on Sunday made an apparent gesture of his anger over the ‘pressure’ exerted by the rich nations at the recent Major Economies Forum in Italy to force India into agreeing to a ‘2 degree C cap’ — one that has received much flak back here and also led to speculations over a difference of opinion between the foreign and environment ministries over the contentious issue of climate change. It means despite being one of the countries with the lowest per capita emissions, India would still need to work towards emission reductions to ensure the global temperatures do not increase beyond 2 degrees above 1990 levels even though the developed countries, the biggest emitters, have refused to agree to 40 per cent reductions by 2020, to match the cuts.

“Even with 8-9 per cent GDP growth every year for the next decade or two, our per capita emissions will be well below that of developed country averages. There is simply no case for the pressure that we, who have among the lowest emissions per capita, face to actually reduce emissions. As if this pressure was not enough, we also face the threat of carbon tariffs on our exports to countries such as yours,” Ramesh said in an obvious reference to Clinton while making his opening remarks at the ITC Green Building event at Gurgaon.

While Ramesh’s reference to “pressure” is in line with India’s assertion post-MEF, observers feel his remarks could also be an outlet of his “pent up anger and disillusionment over India’s change in stance on emission reductions being non-negotiable”. Especially, since it was Ramesh who had, ahead of the MEF, sought to place India’s position on record when he had asserted that any legally binding reduction targets weren’t acceptable to it. It turned out quite the contrary though, and he since raised apprehensions about its adverse impact on India’s developmental plan of action, in which poverty eradication is the priority.

Ramesh also sought to send across a message to the US, which tops the list of global per capita greenhouse gas emitters. “We are just embarking on a close to US$3 billion programme (and US$3 billion to begin with) to regenerate our natural forests that already cover some 165 million acres – roughly the size of Texas. This is one of the largest carbon sinks in the world and a sink that will only grow in size and impact,” he said.

“It is possible for us to have an international agreement that recognises common but differentiated responsibilities and which also involves credible actions by countries like India and China to mitigate the GHG emissions in future,” he maintained. On her part, Clinton said that the US does not and will not do anything that would limit India’s economic progress. Nevertheless, she pointed out that India is a country very vulnerable to climate change and its greenhouse gas pollution is projected to grow by about 50 per cent between now and 2030.

However, Clinton acknowledged that the US had made mistakes in its own industrial advance and defended the right of emerging countries to improve their living standards. She also backed Ramesh, saying India and the US can jointly devise a breakthrough plan for fighting climate change that will generate massive new investments and millions of jobs.

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B K Upmanyu
The US has proposed a legislation entitled ‘American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009’ which aims, inter alia, to reduce global pollution and transition to a clean energy economy. The proposed legislation has a provision for imposition of ‘border adjustment’ measures. Under these measures, foreign manufacturers and importers including those from India would be required to pay for and hold special allowances to cover the carbon contained in US-bound products with a view to ensure that US manufacturers are not put at a disadvantage relative to overseas competitors. WTO, along with UNEP, has recently published a report titled ‘trade and climate change’ which states that more open trade will most likely lead to increased emissions which may not be fully offset by the change in the emissions caused by improvements or changes in the ‘composition’ and ‘technique’ of output. Although, the report does not say that trade concerns should be subjugated to climate change issues, it mentions that climate change can lead to shifts in the pattern of international trade based on comparative advantage of countries. All developing countries included India have no obligation under the UN convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol to make any mandatory emission cuts. Minister of State for the Ministry of Environment and Forests( Independent charge) Shri Jairam Ramesh replied in a written question by Shri B.K. Hariprasad in Rajya Sabha today.
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