NGOs differ over India’s stance on climate change policy

NGOs differ over India’s stance on climate change policy

New Delhi: A clutch of non-governmental organizations on Wednesday petitioned Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that India’s climate policy must be based on the developmental needs of its people.

The 43 organizations said the country’s negotiating stance should remain unchanged, irrespective of steps to mitigate and adapt to climate change and regardless of finance and technology from rich countries.

India is against any mandatory cuts in emissions without financial and technological commitments from industrialised countries.

But not all environmental groups and civil society organizations are on the same page. In a clear difference of opinion, none of the main international environmental pressure groups such as the WWF, Greenpeace or Oxfam have signed the petition.

Experts said that the divide is symptomatic of how the issue is viewed.

“Some environmental groups forget the global picture. The divide is there because of a misunderstanding that climate change is only about the environment," said T. Jayaraman, professor at the Centre for Science, Technology and Development, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, which is a signatory to the petition. “But the reality is that climate change issue has a strong economic aspect, which is driven in a big part by the domestic economy."

The petition draws a line between voluntary actions in India’s own interest and what it might be forced to do under global pressure.

“It is not in India’s favour to take any commitment right now," said Raman Mehta, senior manager, policy, ActionAid India. “We have no problem with flexibility, or action under the UN but taking action doesn’t mean change in stance, especially when it is becoming very clear that the biggest polluter, the US, is not going to come to the table with any concrete number on finance or technology."

Akin to hectic global negotiations, positions taken by the NGOs boil down to whether the battle is to save the planet or a war over resources.

The NGOs that did not sign on the petition said that it didn’t seem necessary now, as Singh has already clarified that India has not changed its stand.

But another reason for the disagreement over the petition is the demand that markets should not play any role in mitigating the effects of greenhouse gas emission.

“The truth is you do need some market mechanisms," said Shirish Sinha, head of climate change and energy programme at WWF. “Our stand is that about 10-20% of the total mitigation from developed nations could be from offsets."

Offsets are generated by projects in developing nations, which reduce carbon emissions. The reductions are then bought by rich countries for their emission-reduction targets.

K. Srinivas, climate policy consultant with Greenpeace International, said that one third of the mitigation from richer countries could be from offsets.