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New climate change draft irks India

May 22, 2009

The first draft on climate change put up on the UNFCCC website for negotiations in the Copenhagen summit has left India sceptical about the new deal. All kinds of proposals that skew negotiations in favour of industrialised nations have made their way into the proposed deal.

New Delhi: The first draft for negotiating the international climate change deal released earlier this week has rankled the Indian government with purported biases in favour of the industrialised countries in some parts.

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The draft text – the basis for the 190 countries to negotiate the possibility of a deal by the end of 2009 – is meant to be a summation on different countries' suggestions of what the world should do in the long run to check climate change.

The Indian government, which along with several other key countries in the negotiations from the industrial or the developing world had made its submissions that were to be summarised in the text, had also demanded that the draft be aligned and shown clearly corresponding to the different elements of the overarching UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – the mother text in a way – that all countries have ratified.

India has on several earlier occasions said that only submissions that fall within the convention should be entertained and be shown in alignment with the various provisions of the text.

But the text put up on the UNFCCC website has not been so arranged and all kinds of proposals, including those that Indian officials believe violate the provisions of the mother convention, have been included skewing the negotiations in favour of the industrialised nations.

"Developing countries insist that the deal must only be to enhance the actions under the convention and not to rewrite its character"

Some industrialised countries want the new deal being currently negotiated to overwrite some of the fundamental features of the existing convention. But developing countries insist that the deal must only be to enhance the actions under the convention and not to rewrite its character.

The convention at present demands that the industrialised countries take actions to mitigate climate changing greenhouse gases but gives the poor and developing countries the carbon space to grow economically.

"By not indicating how the country recommendations included in the negotiations text is in alignment with the convention, the window is left open for allowing in issues that are otherwise not mandated," an Indian official explained.

"In one place the draft gives developing countries just two options, to deviate their emissions from the current baseline by 15-30% by 2020 or reduce by 25% from 2000 levels by 2050. Even if a large number of developing countries don't support this and have alternative views, providing just two options to choose from binds our hands down to start with," another official explained the small tricks in the text that are not to the government's liking.

"Now if we have to push for an alternative here, the other groups will ask for compromises in other sections of the text, which skews the negotiations against us from the start," he said.

The negotiations on the basis of the controversial text are to start from June 1 in Bonn, Germany.

McKinsey endorses India’s green stand

After the World Bank endorsed India’s stand in international climate negotiations, McKinsey and company in its yet to be released study has acclaimed that India is already on way to becoming one of the least carbon intensive countries in the world even as it continues to climb up at a healthy 7.5% economic growth rate.

In a presentation made of its preliminary findings, McKinsey has said that India, which in 2005 recorded a greenhouse gas intensity of 0.70 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per US $1,000, would automatically go down to 0.45 tonnes by 2030 if it just carries on with its economic progress as usual.

The figures, part of a larger economic modelling of low carbon growth in India, bolster this country's position that it is already walking along an economic route, paved by the national action plan on climate change and the 11th plan, to decoupling its future growth from increase in climate changing emissions.

"The industrialised countries, however, argue that India should be doing more to reduce its future emissions"

The report points out that on a per capita basis India is one of the lowest out of the key countries on per capita basis (1.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent) and even if it continued to grow economically, consuming more power to alleviate its poor, the number would rise but it would still be lower than what most industrialised countries were in 2005.

McKinsey has become renowned for its work on abatement cost curves — calculations showing how much it will cost or generate for the economy to take emission cuts from particular sectors or using certain technologies.

In the cost curves it has now produced for India, it has backed this country's contention that most emission cutting activities beyond energy efficiency and other ongoing activities would cost hundreds of billions of dollars of investments. "Over 80% of the opportunity (to reduce emissions) is difficult to implement or positive cost (will cost more to do than it will pay in returns)," the report states.

Even while making highly optimistic assumptions about costs of some technologies reducing dramatically over years such as in the case of solar power, the preliminary report says, India would end up diverting up to 2% of its GDP towards GHG reductions — roughly the amount the government spends on the entire public health budget at the moment.

While McKinsey refused to say anything on the report as it is yet to be released, government officials contacted said it would not be possible to comment on the veracity of the report till the assumptions, data and modelling methods of the company were shared. Some key officials said the company had so far not shared such information with the Indian government.

But government economists and energy experts that had seen the presentation said that the report had made some assumptions that on the face of it looked erroneous. They gave the use of unverifiable low costs of future technologies and presumption of existing energy sources to clock such high and continuous economic growth as some of the examples.

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