Sunday, December 30, 2007

Climate proofing: An Indian point of view

Economic Times (India): Why should India pay the price for the wrongs done by the developed countries? High-income OECD countries, which house just 15% of the world population, account for almost half of the world’s total carbon emissions. The global debate on climate change has been warming up in India too. The Indian policy makers, who have fiercely debated the matter in Parliament recently, have acknowledged global warming to be a major menace.

But the bigger threat for India and its buzzing economy is the question of lending its hand to a matter which will need an overhaul of the country’s existing technologies which will require billions of rupees. Should India, which houses 17.4% of the world’s population, but accounts for just 4.6% of global emissions, conform to strict set of rules in the fight against global warming?

The human development report, 2007-’08, prepared by the UNDP, identifies 2 degree celsius as the threshold, above which the damages of the global climate changes will be irreversible. The world needs to change its level of carbon emission in the next one decade, and start living within carbon budget of 14.5 gigatonnes of CO2 per annum for the remaining years of the 21st century.

…If the recently concluded Bali convention on climate changes is any indication, India has been successful in placing its viewpoints quite effectively. India called for encouragement to those nations which are not only preserving the existing carbon stocks, but adding new forest cover which in turn control the carbon emission. A number of countries such as China, Costa Rica, Thailand and Pakistan have strongly supported the Indian approach on compensated conservation.

During the convention, India cited the study carried out by Indian Institute of Science (IIS), Bangalore, that the country would increase its carbon stocks to 9.75 billion tonnes in 2030 from the present level of 8.79 billion tonnes.

Yet, analysts say that India needs to move on a fast-track to achieve its goals towards climate changes. According to the estimates made by ministry of environment and forests, the adverse impacts of current climate have already threatened the livelihoods of many Indians, especially the poorest.

The current government expenditure on adaptation to climate variability, exceeds 2% of the GDP, with agriculture, water resources, health and sanitation, forests, coastal-zone infrastructure and extreme weather events, being the main areas of concern.

At present, the ministry of new & renewable energy, the bureau of energy efficiency, and the technology information forecasting & assessment council, have specific mandates to promote clean energy technologies. What’s more, the integration of climate change in national development is now guided by the newly set-up Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change comprising representatives from key ministries and experts with domain knowledge.

The question arises whether India, which has been leading from the front in WTO talks, could take the same leadership position in climate change negotiations as well.

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