Risky tack on climate change

Risky tack on climate change

Environment minister Jairam Ramesh will fly out to Cancun tonight, as will his counterparts from their respective countries. The ministers will try to draft a collective action plan to save the world from the debilitating effects of climate change.

However, the lack of excitement in the run-up to the meet indicates that a deal is unlikely; quite unlike the expectations preceding 2009’s meeting in Copenhagen organized under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The sentiment ahead of the meeting is indifference and, not surprisingly, the buzzword at the conference is “balance" rather than “action", which was the keyword in Copenhagen.

Adding to the complete lack of expectations is the lack of intent on the part of the US to pass legislation on climate change mitigation. Against this backdrop, Ramesh will arrive at Cancun with another possible “give" from the developing country side, without an apparent “take" from the developed country grouping. Till now, India, along with the rest of the developing nations, has argued against allowing international consultations and analysis (ICA) on domestic emission reduction actions. Poorer nations argue that this would mean a breach of sovereignty.

Ramesh’s new idea proposes that countries, on the basis of the significance of their individual emissions to total global emissions, open themselves to ICA, and India does make this bracket.

Ramesh justified this proposal by saying that India should be a part of the solution even if it hasn’t been a part of the problem.

This is a smart tactic that presents India as a constructive force in multilateral forums, but the country runs the risk of overplaying its hand, especially since it has not emitted a large portion of the stock of CO2 in the atmosphere today; in other words, the historical burden accrues to developed countries. Moreover, in the last two years, India has effected several changes to its domestic policy to make space for and spend money on environment -friendly initiatives such as solar mission, energy efficiency, sustainable habitat and fuel efficiency.

With no deal in sight, it may well be prudent for India to err on the side of caution.

Is India playing the wrong hand at Cancun? Tell us at views@livemint.com