It has been a while that India has been shifting gears on where it stands on climate change. Our position has for long been that developed countries must financially help developing countries to bear the cost of climate change mitigation. We have also demanded advanced technology for this purpose from the rich countries.
It is important to note that mitigating climate change, if not stopping it, is the right thing for India and all countries of the world. India has never denied this and has been an active participant in efforts to check this peril. The problem is that our new stance could well harm, instead of helping us.
In July, India agreed that increase in global temperature must be restricted to 2 degrees Celsius. The occasion was a meeting of the Major Economies Forum. In September, minister of state for environment and forests Jairam Ramesh indicated this shift to Mint. Ramesh asked why India should insist on a link between emission cuts and financing and technology. On Monday,The Times of India reported that he had written a letter to the Prime Minister making a case for India cutting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on its own without any financial or technological help from industrial countries.While the minister was at pains to explain that India’s basic negotiating stand had not been changed,India’s new position is that it will consider voluntary reduction in emissions, even while insisting that it will continue to link mandatory cuts with financial and technological assistance from developed countries.
Illustration: Jayachandran / Mint
One argument in favour of doing this is that India is now in the big league of countries. For instance, there’s a school of thought that joining the biggies will fetch us returns such as a permanent seat on UN Security Council. The argument can be disposed of in one line: It won’t. But it could create a chasm between India and poor countries that look to Indian leadership.
Any move by India to cut GHG emissions will also hit entire sectors of the economy. Companies and individuals in businesses such as transport, industry and agriculture will have to go in for expensive green technologies. In the case of voluntary cuts, the cost of switching to advanced technology will have to be borne by India and Indians. This will magnify the built-in inflationary pressures in our economy. The macroeconomic consequences are bound to be negative.
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