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India announces 'voluntary' and 'unilateral' emission cuts

Dec 04, 2009

Just ahead of the crucial climate change negotiations, India has announced that it will cut its emission intensity by 20-25% by 2020 on a baseline of 2005. Minister for Environment and Forest said that it would help the country negotiate from a point of strength during the Copenhagen talks.

New Delhi: While making the announcement in the Lok Sabha on Thursday, environment and forests minister Jairam Ramesh said, “It’s a voluntary and unilateral commitment and won’t be taken on as legally binding commitment.” He was responding during a special discussion on India’s position on climate change.

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“India won’t accept any legally binding emission reduction targets or peaking year for emissions,” he added.

Referring to international verification, he said that while all our mitigation actions supported by the international support can be verified, unsupported action won’t be subjected to the same type of scrutiny. He added, “At the same time, we will be flexible without compromising our national interests.”

Stating it would help India negotiate from a point of strength during the Copenhagen talks, he added, “If there is a successful and equitable climate change agreement in Copenhagen and the international community extends support to us, we will do more.”

Ramesh said in his hour-long speech that the emission reduction target was arrived at by the Planning Commission and other institutions after considering that fact that India’s emission intensity has declined by 17.6% between 1990 and 2005.

India’s energy intensity has been decreasing since eighties and is already in the same range as that of the least energy intensive countries in the world.

Further emission cuts are sought to be achieved by legislating mandatory fuel efficiency standards by 2011, introducing a model building energy code, making amendments to the Environment Conservation Act to introduce energy efficiency certificates, and making sure that 50% new capacity in power plants run on clean coal. Further, the low-carbon based growth model will be integrated in the 12th Five Year Plan, starting 2012.

"India’s announcement comes closely after China announced to cut its carbon intensity by 40-45% on a baseline of 2005"

The initial reaction from the industry and activists was positive. Arun Bharat Ram, chairman, SRF, said, “I am sure the industry will play an important role to ensure that the government plan materialises.”

Saying that India is taking its fair share of the global effort on climate action unlike many key industrialised countries, Vinuta Gopal, climate campaign manager, Greenpeace India, added in a statement, “This finally signals India’s readiness to take leadership and be part of the climate solution.”

India’s announcement comes closely after China announced to cut its carbon intensity by 40-45% on a baseline of 2005. Though India’s per capita emission at low at 1.2 tonne compared to 21 tonne in the US and 5.5 tonne in China, India is the world’s fifth biggest greenhouse gases emitter.

India may not like tone and tenor of Danish draft

[Nitin Sethi, Times of India]

Meanwhile, Denmark has shared a draft of a proposed final political statement with select countries that would completely undermine the Indian government and the developing country positions.

TOI accessed details of the draft, which follows the controversial US-Australia proposal of ‘common schedules’ and puts India and other emerging economies on the same page as the industrialised economies, asking all to take similar emission reduction actions.

Denmark, as host, invited select countries including India and China to take a look at the draft on December 1 and 2. China as a counter presented the BASIC draft (forged by China along with India, Brazil and South Africa). The Danish draft was distributed for perusal and then taken back.

Denmark, sources in one of the representatives of the smaller developing countries, told TOI, first suggested that the commitments of all countries be put in the same schedule. When the others protested, they moved to create two schedules, one for the developed economies and the other for developing economies with just a superficial difference. The draft seeks emission reduction actions from all countries at varying degrees.

India had strongly opposed any such move to destroy the firewall between emerging and developed economies. They had earlier in negotiations warned that this was tantamount to destroying the Kyoto Protocol, which creates commitments only for the rich countries. The Bali Action Plan does ask developing countries to take actions on reducing emissions but only when enabled by international finance and technology.

The common schedule approach does away with this basic tenet of the Bali Action Plan that all countries signed on to in 2007. It delinks the transfer of finance and technology from actions of developing world.

The draft proposed by India, China, Brazil and South Africa, sources pointed out, clearly differentiated between the countries already party to Kyoto Protocol and the developing countries. It also creates the space for the US to undertake emission reduction cuts outside the protocol as it is not a signatory to it and is not inclined to accept it in the future either.

The US has been keen on a ‘pledge and review’ formula to go with the schedules.

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