Posted in Uncategorized by stories of an authentic self on December 11, 2009

As India attempts to balance its “global aspirations” with its “global responsibilities” and puts forth its stance of voluntary emission cuts at the Copenhagen Summit, we have to acknowledge that climate change has hardly been India’s doing. Yet, a blame game in context with the ‘polluter pays’ principle is really not the need of the hour. Anand Madanapalle explores what being part of the solution entails for India.


There has been much brouhaha about the UN Climate Change summit at Copenhagen. It was a proud moment for us when Dr. R K Pachauri started the proceedings at the summit. Climate change is indeed a worry, and nobody sums it up better than Al Gore. Its “An Inconvenient Truth”.

While I am keeping my fingers crossed in anticipation of something good coming out of Copenhagen, I also know that I am only going to end up with sore fingers and little else. My skepticism and cynicism stem from the very anger that caused the BJP to walk out of the Rajya Sabha (although Justice Liberhan is also to blame, still!).

In the build up to the summit, India has been put under pressure from many quarters to accept a legally binding framework that will help reduce the “intensity of” carbon emissions by 2020. (NOTE: Not quantity, but intensity). Jairam Ramesh, who I believe is our most articulate minister (after Tharoor), has made it clear that India is not in a position to accept such a legally binding framework. India would rather opt for self regulation, than coming under the ambit of a multi-lateral international agreement. While this sounds convincing, I still think it’s a sell out by the UPA government. Here’s why –

Most of Europe along with the US have messed around with the earth enough, facilitating their rapid industrial, economic and financial growth. India, Brazil and China (Wow, really?) are countries whose potential is yet to be realized fully. Now, why does the developed world want us to accept these curbs and jump onto the emission capped bandwagon? Are they really that selflessly worried about the environment? I think they are being utterly hypocritical in their ways.

1. Climate change is an accumulative phenomenon. It didn’t start as soon as India adopted a policy of glasnost and perestroika. The origins and contributions started all the way back during the Industrial Revolution. The Americas along with Europe have pumped enough soot into the air to choke all our lungs. So, they are as culpable as us for causing global warming.

2. Legally binding agreements signed by India would impair our ambitions of achieving a two digit GDP growth rate. India would end up focusing more on conservation rather than utilization. Yes, maximizing efficiency and sustainable growth is important. But why do we need an international framework for that? With our growth as a super-power thwarted, the super-powers of today can stay on top for that much longer, and have it their way for that much longer.

3. Signing any agreement would force India to meet Euro emission norms. That would mean automobiles having to be fitted with expensive converters. India will thus, be transformed into a huge market for companies in the US and Europe manufacturing these converters. Of course, this theory can be extended to well beyond just converters.

4. On a per-person basis, the developed countries still emit more carbon than developing countries. Absolute numbers can’t be the only basis for heinous allegations of India and China causing maximum damage. Another point of interest is the Per Capita CO2 emission. The per capita emission of USA is about 23.5 Tonnes a year, where as the combined emissions of Brazil, India and China is only 12.6 Tonnes.

5. India stands to lose most at Copenhagen. The nation’s water supply is largely dependent on rainwater from the Asian Monsoon and meltwater from Himalayan glaciers. Both these sources are severely affected by global warming. It’s unfair that India should sacrifice its development because of the flawed industrialization of the west.
We owe this to ourselves, and our children. But we don’t have to listen to “someone else”. India is perfectly capable of managing its own climate change policy and implement it at a pace it desires. If the developed world really cares about the environment, then it is only fair that they provide developing countries incentives to cut emissions (read thwart their progress). This clearly isn’t happening. And even if it does, it will be interesting to see if Jairam Ramesh and Manmohan Singh bend over their backs to placate Obama.

On another note, a more important one, I find it funny that people are looking at Copenhagen in anticipation of a magical vacuum cleaner that, with one swish of its magic wand, will suck all the filth out of earth, and make it pristine and squeaky clean once again. They are going to be sorely disappointed.

The road to reversing climate change begins at home. Nobody can legislate that for us. We need to stop being cynical, and realize that switching off lights and fans DOES make a difference. That car-pooling is both fun and utilitarian. That nonchalance will not work anymore.

The spirit we should show to make a difference is envisaged in the words of Barack Hussein Obama, “YES WE CAN!”


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