India ‘working with Pakistan for common stance on climate change’
* New Delhi says it may involve Beijing and Islamabad in effort to protect Himalayan glaciers
* Minister says India will not commit to reducing greenhouse gas emissions
By Iftikhar Gilani
NEW DELHI: India said on Tuesday it was working with Pakistan to evolve a common stance on the issue of climate change at international level.
Expressing concern at the US move to impose trade penalties on countries not accepting limits related to global warming, Indian Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh said his country hadpolitical differences with Pakistan, but the two countries and other SAARC nations share the same concerns.
The minister said he was also not averse to including Pakistan, China, Nepal and Bhutan in his endeavour to save Himalayan glaciers from receding.
United Nations Framework Conventions on Climate Change (UNFCC) negotiations that began in Bonn, Germany earlier this month will culminate in a climate summit to be held at Copenhagen, Denmark on December 7 and 8. Climate change is one of the three issues that dominate the international agenda along with terrorism and the global financial crisis.
Ramesh said India would not sign any treaty that binds it to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as it would jeopardise energy conservation, agricultural and food security in the country.
He also attacked a proposed US legislation that seeks to financially punish countries that refuse to take on such targets.
“India will oppose any move to make climate change a trade barrier,” he said. Industrialised countries, which are already committed to reducing emissions by 5.2 percent from 1990 levels by 2012, are putting immense pressure on India, China and other emerging economies to commit to reduction or at least caps on greenhouse gas emissions.
These emissions - 75 percent of which is carbon dioxide – are warming the atmosphere and leading to climate change.
He said India’s per capita carbon dioxide emission were only 1.1 tonnes, when compared to over 20 tonnes for the US and in excess of 10 tonnes for most OECD countries. The minister added that the US and China account for over 16 percent each of the total global emissions, while India trails with just 4 percent despite its very large population and rapidly growing economy.
The minister said a team of Indian scientists has been engaged to find whether Himalayan glaciers were receding due to climate change or natural processes, or due to human activity. These glaciers – which also included Indus line glaciers in Kashmir – are the lifeline for Pakistan’s major rivers.
Jairam Ramesh said he was not averse to including Pakistan, China, Nepal and other countries in the region to protect and conserve these glaciers. Asked if the government would take a cue from West and reduce tourist traffic to these glaciers, the minister said in India it was mostly Hindu pilgrims who visit these places and called for a public awareness campaign to save them.
In Kashmir almost 20,000 Hindu pilgrims visit the Indus line glaciers every day, as against 150 per day who visit the Gomokh glacier, source of River Ganges.
Ramesh said his primary focus was on “adaptation” and not “mitigation” as demanded by western countries.
Mitigation could be accepted in some areas areas, he said, and only those Nationally Appropriate Mitigation actions could be subject to international monitoring, reporting and verification that are enabled and supported by international funding and technology transfer.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had unveiled India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change exactly a year ago. The eight “missions” listed in the plan are still being finalised, and Ramesh said detailed “action plans” would be ready by the end of the year.
Ramesh said India and the rest of the world would “have to redefine gross domestic product as green domestic product” in 10 to 15 years. “We need massive investments in afforestation, sustainable agriculture and water security. There’s no doubt that green is the way to go. It means big business too,” he said.
On October 22 and 23, India will host an international conference on green technology development and transfer, and the minister was confident the country could become a global leader in green technologies.
While pointing out that eight percent of India’s power generation was from renewable sources and the plan was to ramp it up to 20 percent in the next decade, Ramesh said there was no escaping from the use of coal to generate energy.
He said India has a plan to study climate change involving 98 institutions and 227 scientists. “Unfortunately, most of the research climate change is being carried out in the Western. We shouldn’t have other scientists telling us what is happening to Himalayan glaciers. I’m in touch with scientists of Indian origin abroad, who want to build scientific capability in this area.”