Benoit Marquet/Oxfam GB

Flickr Photo credit: Benoit Marquet/Oxfam GB

While the highly anticipated summit in Copenhagen is in December, there are already international negotiations taking place amongst country representatives. Much has changed in the world for many nations since Kyoto, and India is a prime example. Since Kyoto, India has since become one of the top 3 emitters of carbon dioxide and continues to grow. Similarly, India has experienced tremendous growth economically that has led to marked improvements in certain development goals, though not all. Perceptions on climate change since Kyoto have also changed, especially within India, as awareness among Indians has risen, though fragmented.

Recently, Indian-based The Energy and Resource Institute (TERI) sponsored its annual Sustainable Development Summit in Delhi. Attracting a number of international delegates, the Summit was marketed as a starting ground for Copenhagen. While there is increasing international pressure on India to commit to aggressive climate policies, India’s participation in the international arena tends to be one of mixed rhetoric: vocal in its concerns and priorities as these frameworks emerge, yet silent and awaiting commitments by other nations.

India emphasizes technology and funding in climate diplomacy

India has been steadfast in echoing the ‘common but differentiated responsibility’ tone in its climate diplomacy in the past few years. This tone is likely to continue in the months leading up to Copenhagen focusing on the ‘principle of equity’. Noting that developed countries assistance in technology and funding is critical to building their capacity to address climate change goals, the Government of India has resisted any commitments to emission targets. Shyam Saran, senior official in the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Climate Change, stated  “We would expect the Copenhagen outcome to provide us with the space we require for accelerated social and economic development in order to eradicate widespread poverty.” This stance challenges some of those emerging from international organization officials, such as UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon who stated at the Delhi Summit “We should not argue who is more responsible, who is less responsible, who should do more and as to who less. This is a common, shared responsibility.”  The latest publication from the Ministry of External Affairs outlines India’s position on climate issues leading up to Copenhagen and challenges misconceptions of India’s position. Some points:

  • On India’s resistance to GHG target commitments: Challenging criticism, the publication emphasized that the Government of India’s position is based on the fact that India’s per capita emissions are low and the Government is intent on ensuring they remain low in the future. In addition, India is interested in seeking outcomes in Copenhagen that address inevitable outcomes resulting from climate change- seeking an equitable distribution of resources to adapt.
  • On India’s vocal objections and lack of proposals on the international front: The Indian Government is looking to address issues that currently hinder technology transfers in India such as weak intellectual property rights and lack of collaborative research and development (R&D).

Economic downturn concerns

In the months leading up to Copenhagen, the view among Indian officials is one of concern that economic downturn will deflate developed countries commitments to global climate change commitments particularly emission targets, funding, and technology transfer. External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee voiced that the current economic downturn  should not be used as an excuse for developed countries to scale back environmental commitments. Domestically, India’s own “Green Energy Summit” supposed to be held early this month and attracting India businesses, NGOs, and ministries was postponed due to the economic downturn. Thus, capacity concerns associated with technology transfer worry Indian officials as economic constraints limit diffusion and adoption of new technologies in various sectors.

India looking to lead in research and technology

Erik Solheim, Norway’s minister for environment and international relations, suggests India should take a more assertive approach on emission targets and set the tone for developing countries in the climate change pact leading up to Copenhagen 2009. In its own contexts, the Indian Government has aimed to be leader on the international front, stating India would not allow its per capita emissions to exceed the average of developed countries’ and has sought its own Action Plan to confront issues. India has also shown interest in forging R&D partnerships with countries such as the United States- noting President Obama’s increased attention towards renewable energy as an opportunity for the Indian economy. In the end, equity concerns and capacity shortfalls are key issues formulating India’s stance on climate change.

Clearly, India’s accountability and capacity in climate change issues has considerably been – and will continue to be- a target of discussion as India receives a growing spotlight in the international climate change policy arena leading up to Copenhagen in December.

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