India and China have both signed on a pan-Asian agreement that aims to stabilize carbon emissions. This is the one big advance in the ongoing meeting of regional leaders in Singapore. The climate deal marks a major change in the policy of India and China, which have till now been suspicious that a climate deal could indirectly force them to compromise on economic growth far before they emerged out of mass poverty. The Chinese leadership has, in fact, reportedly said the country would slash its energy consumption per unit of GDP by 20% in five years. India does not seem to have made any concrete promise.
The Asian deal perhaps paves way for a broader global deal at Bali later in the year. But how should the burden of cutting emissions be distributed? India’s per capita emission levels for carbon are far lower than most other major countries, both rich and developing. That should not be forgotten at the negotiating table.