Monday, December 07, 2009

Copenhagen Climate Change Summit: India Crumbling before US-led Developed World??

The Following is the release brought out by the SFI-JNU on the Copenhagen Summit and India's shifting stances. With due acknowledgements to Arjun and Anagha, publishing this as a post

From today(7th December), the attention of the world would be turned towards Copenhagen which is hosting the two-week United Nations Climate Change Conference that would last till 18th December. The issue of the change in our atmospheric temperature fundamentally caused due to Global Warming is definitely of a serious nature, that can no more swept under the carpet. Any rise of global temperatures above 2 degree Celsius, according to experts and scientists would have catastrophic effects. This would in fact lead melting of glaciers, change climate patterns, and raise sea levels that would in turn make way for submergence of low-lying areas and islands, as has been feared with countries like Maldives. This would also affect the level and pattern of rainfall, leading to drastic impact on agricultural production and turn farm land into the deserts. The rise in global temperatures is brought about by the emission of Greenhouse gases that includes Carbon Di Oxide, Methane and four other gases, which severely damage the ozone layer. Therefore, the world should definitely look at the impact of climate change on livelihood of people as well as on the environment.

However, developments leading up to the global summit on climate change in Copenhagen have demonstrated yet again the sheer tenacity of the Rich and Developed countries in preserving their unequal and unjust privileges with respect to the rest of the world. In the last few months, the developed world, under the leadership of the US, has tried every trick in the book to transfer the entire burden of climate change on to the shoulders of the Developing Countries. This has been attempted in several ways. Firstly, developed countries have been shrilly insisting that developing countries take on legally binding and specific obligations to reduce their carbon emissions. This demand is accompanied, of course, by a view of the problem of climate change in which the historically dominant contribution of the developed world to carbon emissions is completely denied. The fact that different countries, at different stages of development, contribute differently to global emission levels, and should therefore bear the burden of emission reduction differently, is completely glossed over. India’s per capita emissions, for instance, are around one-tenth of the per capita emissions in the developed countries. In such an unequal scenario, insisting on an equal commitment to reduction from every country amounts to the worst kind of inequity. This view is outrageously blinkered to another important fact. The brunt of climate change, in terms of its impact on the quality of human life, is already being unequally and disproportionately shouldered by the Developing World–particularly the poorest of its inhabitants. Climate change has exceptionally severe consequences for countries that are predominantly dependant on agriculture or other kinds of primary economic activity. This is particularly the case where artificial irrigation is not very developed and extensive. In India, for instance, climate change can play havoc with agricultural activity by interfering enormously in patterns of precipitation. Further, as climate change is beginning to substantially impact the physical shape and ecological constitution of coastlines, activities like fishing, particularly in cases where levels of mechanization are comparatively low, stand to get acutely affected. The Developing countries and the lesser developed countries, therefore, is disproportionately vulnerable to the ravages of climate change.

Secondly, there has been a concerted effort by developed countries to shamelessly distance themselves from their obligations under the Kyoto Protocol and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The principle that served as the foundation of the understandings reached at these conventions was that of “common but differentiated responsibilities”. On this principle, developed countries were supposed to take a lead in emissions reduction with specific legally binding reductions within specific lengths of time. Most developed countries have grossly violated these binding targets. (The US, of course, which refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol has unabashedly let its emission levels rise). They have also tried, over the last few months, to systematically remove these legally binding obligations from public memory. Most developed countries, therefore, pretend that the Copenhagen summit is a forum wherein deliberations on climate change can be ‘begun’ from a clean slate! The sheer deceit of such a stand has had several crude manifestations. The blatant lie that the Kyoto Protocol ends in 2012, for instance, belongs to this category.

Thirdly, there has been a strong insistence by the developed world that technology and knowledge transfers to the Developing and less developed world, pertaining to emission reductions, should be subject to international Intellectual Property Rights frameworks. It is an undeniable fact that countries in the Third World, if they are to develop–if they are to lift themselves out of the mire of poverty, unemployment and economic stagnation–they will have to increase their levels of carbon emissions.

What can, however, mitigate the consequences of such a rise is the adoption of technologies that can help reduce the level of pollution relative to a given level of production. However, plagued as these countries are by economic and technological underdevelopment, their capacity to develop these technologies on their own is limited. Hence, the transfer of ‘green’ technologies from the developed to the developing world is of extreme importance. The developed countries, predictably of course, are attempting to profit from even this dire situation. By insisting that IPR norms apply to these technology transfers, the Rich countries are, in effect, insisting that the developing world and lesser developed countries be incapable of pursuing a trajectory of development. Through this insistence, the developed countries, under American leadership, have revealed their stark and cynical indifference to both the question of climate change and that of the welfare of the overwhelming numbers of people languishing in situations of extreme want and underdevelopment in the Developing World.

The position of the Indian government, in the run-up to the Copenhagen summit, seems equally shocking. The government seems to be extremely keen to accede to the unconscionable demands of the US-led developed countries. This has largely been in the form of the reversal of several of the principled positions that India has traditionally had on the question of climate change. In fact, in all the dilution and watering down the principled positions, the role of the Minister for Environment and Forests, Jairam Ramesh has been that of leading from the front!! The Prime Minister’s earlier stated position was that India’s per capita emissions “would not exceed” the per capita emissions of the Developing World. However, Jairam Ramesh, has recently modified this position by replacing the words “would not exceed” with “will stay below” thereby making room for negotiations under the per capita emission levels of the developed world. This amounts to nothing but shocking enthusiasm for the inequitable and unjust pressures exerted by the rich and developed countries. The minister has also announced 20%-25% reduction in emissions, while stating that this was ‘only domestic measure and would not be legally binding’. Further, the same minister has gone to the extent of claiming in the Lok Sabha that taking per capita emissions as the key standard is mistaken in the first place as it is largely a function of the population size. The concept of ‘per capita emissions’ has been central to the arguments of resistance made by the developed countries against the iniquitous designs of the developed countries on the question of climate change. To attack the use of this concept is therefore to render this resistance toothless. Further, he has offered to make India’s internal emission reduction efforts open to external monitoring and verification, regardless of whether technology transfers outside the domain of IPR are carried out at all or not, thereby deviating from one of the key components of India’s stated position on the issue. Of course, this has been accompanied by a vehement dismissal of the importance of the G-77, which till some time earlier had been viewed as a principally important formation as far as the resistance to the first world’s climate change-related bullying was concerned. These constant flip-flops and dilly-dallying by Jairam Ramesh in the past few days, and now the only goes to show the dilution in India’s Negotiating position on this issue and thereby, kowtowing or acting in the interest of the Developed World led by the US. Hence, this sudden shift in the country’s Environment and Climate Change is not hard to comprehend as it only points to the larger strategic alliance with the United States. In fact, two key members of the country’s Negotiating team in Copenhagen, Chandrasekhar Dasgupta and Prodipto Ghosh had even initially sought to not travel for the Summit due to differences with the Minister’s position.

Finally, the recent announcement of the Prime Minister attend the final days of the Summit only raises apprehensions as to whether this came under the pressure of the US, where Barack Obama would also be in Copenhagen. In fact, this is in contrast to his earlier position that if the proposed terms of understanding were unequal, he would not be a part of the forum. His decision to attend it, therefore, represents the final confession on the part of the UPA government that it has no intention whatsoever to resist the US-directed imperialist tyranny of the rich and developed countries on this issue. The series of agile u-turns and somersaults the government has done on the question of climate change have been nothing but a part of their systematic effort to dismantle mechanisms and space for resistance to US imperialism and hegemony in general. Finally, it represents a deep-rooted and fundamental callousness, on the part of the UPA-led government, to questions of the welfare of the Indian people, particularly those enormous sections of it grappling with material want and abysmal conditions of life.


Therefore, there has to be a united opposition to these positions of the Indian government. The need for all concerned sections is to ensure that even while taking into cognizance and acting on the perils envisaged by Climate Change, there can be no reversal or dilution of Principled Negotiating positions, by kowtowing to the diktats of the US and the Developed World


Jugular Bean said...

Many analysts, including some of India's own negotiators at Copenhagen have it all wrong. They incorrectly equate emissions to development.

We need to clearly delink the two. Why should we not aim for clean and sustainable development. When we already have the technologies for pushing clean development why must we pollute the planet and bring it to the brink to develop.

In the last 30 years we have added so much CO2 belching coal power to our grid, but still nearly 800 million rural people barely get 12 hours of electricity.

Why not provide them with small scale, decentralized solar, biomass and wind plants.
Why not improve energy efficiency of our devices.
Why not improve our public transport systems and reduce dependency on cars.
Why not improve fuel efficiency of vehicles?

These are all possibly with current technology, but industry does not want to make the move.

I think Jairam Ramesh has taken bold steps and pushed India into a leadership position.

When the British used violence to control the Indian freedom struggle did Gandhi refuse to talk to them unless they quit the violence? He continued to protest in a non-violent manner, thus showing them he was intellectually, politically and spiritually ahead of the so called "civilized" British.

We have to SHAME the "developed" world into seeing their folly just like Gandhi shamed the "civilized" British.

It's not use arguing about who created the problem. We should now get the US and other annexe 1 nations to commit to 40% emission reductions, as well as to provide funds and technology so we can make even better reductions on emissions.

We have taken a bold first step and shown leadership, now the developed world should follow.

nav'n said...

i was thinking, how to increase the awareness among Indian people to "reduce the carbon emissions", but just read tat India's per capita emissions are lesser than that of developed countries.
If that so, is India ,is neutral in talks?
what can the Indian people do about this?

shahla said...

I am a researcher at UK and have just begun my theme which is unemployemnt and green economy in UK and India.

The review about the position of the Indian Government is fascinating to a researchers mind but little to understand the reason why Indian ministers are ready to negotiate and compromise.Please expalin why is it so?

I hope to discuss further as I receieve your reply.Thank you

Vicky said...

The way u hav presented ur blog...
ur view is clear...
But i wud also like to say that instead of judging abt the approach of India(yes India, nt UPA) politically u shud see in global terms whether the approach is right or wrong,which in my opnion is in the right direction.