How India hopes to lead the world

How India hopes to lead the world
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First Published: Fri, Nov 06 2009. 11 42 PM IST

 Positive note: Minister of state for environment Jairam Ramesh. Harikrishna Katragadda / Mint
Positive note: Minister of state for environment Jairam Ramesh. Harikrishna Katragadda / Mint
Updated: Fri, Nov 06 2009. 11 42 PM IST
New Delhi: As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh talked with the European Union (EU) officials on Friday in the Capital to seek common ground on climate change, India is going ahead with its own plans to pare domestic emissions, incentivize companies to save energy and lead the way for the world.
Positive note: Minister of state for environment Jairam Ramesh. Harikrishna Katragadda / Mint
“Let us take on aggressive commitments domestically,” environment minister Jairam Ramesh told the Hindustan Times. “Let us negotiate from a position of strength because we have a good story to tell the world.”
Some strands of the story are being woven together by a raft of experts and agencies trying to implement ambitious and potentially profitable plans to keep India’s carbon emissions under check, independent of international commitments.
Policymakers are working on energy norms and a range of incentives for 714 of India’s most energy-intensive installations across nine sectors.
“Our goal is to ensure each tonne of energy, cement, steel uses less energy than the previous tonne,” said Ajay Mathur, director general of the Bureau of Energy Efficiency and an Indian climate negotiator.
The aim is to make energy efficiency profitable.
“We’ll have a national registry for energy-efficiency certificates, which will have a one-year tenure,” said Pramod Deo, chairman of the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission. “They will work like shares, or carbon credits. They should be available from April 2010.”
Only after amendments to the Energy Conservation Act are passed by Parliament will it be clear if these carbon credits will be traded at a physical exchange or online.
Given the political heat over perceived kowtowing to the West, these efficiency measures will likely not be offered for international verification.
Singh, reiterating that India was not yet ready to quantify targets, spoke of its efforts, which stretch beyond energy efficiency to growing more forests as carbon sinks. “We have a very ambitious national plan to combat climate change,” he said after the 10th India-EU summit in New Delhi.
“We have acknowledged there are ambitious plans in India,” said Swedish Prime Minister Fredrick Reinfeldt. “But we need action from everyone.” Sweden now holds the rotating EU presidency.
In many sectors such as steel and power—where emissions per unit are reducing—India already has some of the world’s most efficient units.
“What’s interesting is how quickly these are copied,” said Mathur, whose bureau has successfully implemented energy ratings for refrigerators and air conditioners, first voluntary, then mandatory. For instance, the summer of 2009 saw a five-week waiting period for five-star ACs, the rating for most energy-efficient units.
As it becomes evident that the effects of a warming planet are deeper and faster in India than previously thought, the Centre has also identified 127 research institutes—collectively called Indian Network of Climate Change Assessment— to study climate change.
It seems clear there will be no agreement at Copenhagen, Denmark, where governments meet next month to discuss how developed and developing countries will cut carbon emissions and who will pay.
“There will be no legally binding agreement in Copenhagen,” predicted Ramesh. “Only a political statement, which will then be a mandate for negotiations.”
These statements, agreed other experts, would be legally binding on developed nations, not developing ones. “We must now work on the political statement,” said Ramesh.
This includes building a national consensus, a process that was derailed last month by the leak of a letter Ramesh wrote to Singh. The leak wrongly implied that India was thinking of mandating domestic emission cuts and offering them as global commitments.
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First Published: Fri, Nov 06 2009. 11 42 PM IST