Climate Change:

UPA Minister Sings US Tune

Radhika Krishnan

Recent revelations that the environment minister Jairam Ramesh has written a “confidential” letter to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh suggesting fundamental changes in India’s stance vis-à-vis international negotiations on climate change have come as a major shock to all those who have been following the climate change negotiations over the past few years. Ramesh has gone to the extent of suggesting that India junk the Kyoto Protocol, delink itself from G-77 (the 131-member bloc of developing nations) and take on binding greenhouse gas emission reduction commitments under a “new deal” without even a counter guarantee of finances and technology. The import of these “suggestions” are dangerous, to say the very least – hitting as they do on the very core of India’s long-standing resistance to accepting any “binding” commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
While the developed world, in particular the US, has always tried to portray India’s stance as “stubborn” and “unfair”, the fact of the matter is that India’s resistance to accepting binding commitments at an international forum notorious for its inequitable provisions is based on an ideological position that every human being irrespective of nationality is entitled to an equal share of the global atmosphere. This is the theoretical underpinning of India’s demand that global negotiations on climate change should be based on per-capita greenhouse emissions, rather than on the total greenhouse gas emissions of a country. By suggesting that India voluntarily agree to binding commitments, Ramesh is essentially drawing a blueprint for a complete ideological surrender on this crucial point. This is nothing but a shameful retreat from the ethical, principled position that India along with the rest of the developing countries have been struggling so hard for the past two decades to defend. For a country that claims to be a proud “leader” of the G-77, this retreat would be a breathtaking betrayal of third-world unity against the inequitable, unjust policies that the rich and powerful countries try to shove down the throats of the poorest countries of the world.
It is also important to note that Jairam Ramesh is not suggesting this fundamental change under some immediate pressure. There is absolutely no need for India to buckle down at this stage, unless of course the intention is to prove the UPA’s loyalty to its US masters yet once more! Jairam Ramesh’s recent suggestions are a carbon copy of the US’s latest proposals named the “Australian Proposal”. Therefore, much as he would like the country to believe that this shift is our favour, the facts are out in the open for everyone to see. His recent absurd proposal comes just after he wrote to the Prime Minister suggesting that India permit “strict external scrutiny” – just as is done under IMF and WTO – of the mitigation measures it takes at its own cost. Obviously, for Ramesh, what is important is not India’s sovereignty, or any sense of equity or justice in international negotiations, but the need to curry favour with the biggest and most powerful power in the world. Ramesh has tried to justify his stand by stating that India could gain certain “advantages” by this shift in stance – a permanent seat on the Security Council, for instance. We must remember that the UPA tried to sell the Indo-US Nuclear Deal with the highly problematic Hyde Act to the country with precisely the same kind of arguments.
Right from the beginning of the negotiations on climate change in the early 1990s, there have been attempts by the developed countries to escape from taking responsibility for their historic role in creating the climate change crisis. It has been a huge challenge for developing countries to forge links with each other and pressurize some of the richest and most powerful countries of the world to accept binding commitments. It is predictably the US – past master in the game of bullying weaker nations into accepting unjust policies – which has spearheaded the opposition to any genuine, concerted attempt to solve the climate crisis.

The need of the hour is definitely for India to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, through a thorough rethink of its existing energy policy which is unethical, unjust and nor environmentally sustainable by any stretch of imagination. However, the need of the hour is also to build on and strengthen the existing solidarity with the third-world countries against the machinations of the US and the EU to push the responsibility of mitigating climate on the poorest countries of the world. The UPA has “officially” distanced itself from Jairam Ramesh’s proposals as of now. But when India’s chief negotiator at the climate change talks and our Environment Minister comes up with such proposals, the direction that the UPA wants to take is abundantly clear.