Wednesday, July 22, 2009

No case for pressure to cut emissions

Even with 8-9 per cent GDP annual growth for the next decade or two, our per capita emissions will be well below developed country averages. There is simply no case for the pressure we face to reduce emissions, says JAIRAM RAMESH

India’s position on the ongoing climate change agreement negotiations is clear, credible and consistent. We are very conscious of the local impacts of climate change within our country. Embedded in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Bali Action Plan, we are fully alive to our global responsibilities as well.

We will never allow our per capita emissions to exceed that of the developed countries. We have done detailed modelling, the results of which are being released very soon. The results are unambiguous. Even with 8-9 per cent GDP growth every year for the next decade or two, our per capita emissions will be well below developed country averages.

There is simply no case for the pressure that we, who have among the lowest emissions per capita, face to actually reduce emissions. And as if this pressure was not enough, we also face the threat of carbon tariffs on our exports to countries such as yours. We are ensuring that our economic growth path is ecologically sustainable — GDP is increasingly Green Domestic Product, not just Gross Domestic Product.

Apart from vastly greater financial flows from the developed world, we see a critical role for international technology cooperation in enabling countries like India to adapt to climate change. In collaboration with the UN, the Government of India is hosting an International Conference on Climate Change and Technology on October 22-23, 2009.

The New Delhi Statement on technology and climate change will, we hope, be reflected in the Copenhagen Agreement.


We have a comprehensive national action plan on climate change. This is driven primarily by our adaptation imperatives, but it does not neglect what we should do on our own for mitigation. The plan is being converted into a large number of specific programmes and projects. All this is in the public domain. The energy sector is key. Our focus is on making technology leaps to ensure lower emissions.

Our biggest power utility, National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) has the second lowest carbon dioxide intensity in the world — that is, emissions per megawatt of power generated. Our energy consumption per unit of GDP has been falling significantly. We are world leaders in fast breeder reactor technology. We are establishing a 182 MW commercial power plant based on indigenously-developed integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) technology. We have launched a major initiative on extracting carbon dioxide from flue gases for propagating algae in bioreactors. Our renewable energy commitment goes back over two and a half decades. Sustainable forestry management is of profound importance to us.

We are just embarking on a close to $3 billion programme (and $3 billion to begin with) to regenerate our natural forests that already cover some 165 million acres—roughly the size of Texas. This is one of the largest carbon sinks in the world—and a sink that will only grow in size and impact. In this connection, I seek your support for India’s proposals to the UNFCCC on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+), that is to acknowledge and reward countries who are in the business of actually expanding forest cover and not just arresting deforestation and degradation. India seeks to engage the world community proactively in the climate change area. We also seek to engage the United States of America purposively. Let me sketch three areas where our two countries can cooperate.


First, I see numerous opportunities for joint research, development, demonstration and dissemination projects. This could be in areas like solar energy, biomass, clean coal, high voltage power transmission, smart grids, wastewater utilisation, etc. I propose that we jointly explore the feasibility of establishing an ‘Indo-US Foundation for Climate Change Technology’ with initial kick-start contributions from our respective governments. This will catalyse private investment into the corpus as well. The focus on this Foundation should be on transformative, discontinuity technologies that will enable leapfrogging.

Second, I propose that our two countries collaborate in the area of environmental planning, regulation and management. We are thinking of establishing our own independent, professional, science-based national environmental protection authority. We are planning to set up a National Green Tribunal as some sort of an environmental court. I am convinced that we have much to learn from your long experience in this area. We can also collaborate in the on-going renewal of our vast forestry and biodiversity science and management establishment.

Third, I see building institutional capacity for continuing research on climate change and its impacts as being of fundamental importance. This has to be done by us primarily. All I want to say in this connection is that the US should not overlook the importance of research in the public domain — after all, this is what made the Green Revolution possible in the first place.

I believe that this is what will make the ‘Evergreen Revolution’, with its underpinning in ecological sustainability and equity, also possible. That is why India has proposed the idea of global technology innovation centres working. Your support is crucial to get such centres going for the benefit of millions of ordinary people.

(Opening remarks of Mr Jairam Ramesh, Minister of State for Environment and Forests, at the ITC Green Building event on July 19 in connection with the visit of the US Secretary of State, Ms Hillary Clinton.)

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