US asks India to commit on climate change combat plan

June 17th, 2008 - 8:18 am ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, June 16 (IANS) The US is trying to break the deadlock in global climate change negotiations by getting countries like India and China to turn their national action plans into binding commitments to be included in an international treaty. James L. Connaughton, chairperson, Council on Environmental Quality, White House, was here Monday to meet Shyam Saran, the prime minister’s chief negotiator on climate change, and seek India’s support in this effort.

Before the two met, Connaughton said the world’s “major industrialised and emerging” countries were drafting a declaration that he hoped would lead to a robust global treaty by the end of 2009.

The declaration is expected at a major economic leaders meeting in Japan July 9, along with the G8 summit. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will be among the leaders of major emerging countries who will be present.

India is close to finalising its national action plan to combat climate change. Like that of the US, it is a potpourri of energy efficiency measures, incentives for energy generation from renewable sources and tree plantation schemes.

Connaughton, who has been heading the environment team of US President George W. Bush since 2001, favoured this approach over binding commitments to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. GHGs warm the atmosphere, leading to climate change.

The binding commitments, by industrialised countries, were in the Kyoto Protocol, which the Bush government refused to ratify.

Connaughton preferred the Montreal Protocol approach, by which every country would have a responsibility to control GHG emissions, though the levels of control and target dates to achieve them would vary “according to the principle of common but differentiated responsibility”.

Claiming that the US was on the right path to controlling its GHG emissions - which would peak by 2025, going by current projections - Connaughton said a “bottoms up” approach of controlling GHG emissions sector by sector (energy efficiency, green building codes and so on) was far more likely to succeed than “the top down approach of the Kyoto protocol”.

Connaughton repeated the US government position that there could be “no major progress” in combating climate change if industrialised countries committed to reduce GHG emissions but major emerging economies like India and China did not. India has consistently opposed any mandatory emission caps on developing countries, saying it would affect plans to provide electricity to all.

Connaughton hoped the US plan to turn national plans to international commitments would bridge this fundamental gap. He said Mexico had pledged to do exactly that. Industrialised countries like the US, Australia and Canada had done the same.

“We’re seeking from China and India what we offer ourselves,” Connaughton said. “India needs to define for itself what it’s capable of achieving. The question is of willingness. I’m hopeful, because I see a strong commitment from prime Minister (Manmohan) Singh for a more robust strategy.”

Asked to comment on Manmohan Singh’s offer that India’s per capita GHG emission would never exceed that of an industrialised country, Connaughton said: “Per capita, per GDP, absolute emissions, we need to look at all.”

Connaughton did not think a change of guard at the White House early next year would have a major impact on the current round of climate change negotiations. It would be the middle of 2009 before the new president had his team in place, he pointed out.

“Besides, both Barack Obama and John McCain have supported recent laws on climate change control. In this matter, the support across the US is bipartisan.”

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