Manmohan Singh seeks senior minister for climate talks

May 19th, 2009 - 6:25 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, May 19 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has asked senior leaders Kamal Nath and Kapil Sibal if either of them would agree to be environment minister in the new government, at least till the end of the year, and represent India at the crucial climate talks in Copenhagen in December, a Congress source said Tuesday.
The ministry of environment and forests (MOE&F) was run by two ministers of state under the overall direction of the prime minister in the outgoing United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.

Kamal Nath, commerce minister in the outgoing government with cabinet rank, and Sibal, who had independent charges of the science and technology and earth sciences portfolios, are considered too senior to be offered the posts of ministers of state, the senior Congress leader said.

However, the prime minister had made a special request to them in view of the Copenhagen talks, he added.

The other option of upgrading the MOE&F is always there but Manmohan Singh is learnt to be reluctant to increase the number of central ministries to be headed by a cabinet minister as that could open the door to further lobbying by UPA partners.

There was speculation a few days back that Kamal Nath was in the race for the finance minister’s post in the new government. Congress sources, however, said Manmohan Singh was reported to have wanted former Reserve Bank of India governor C. Rangarajan as finance minister.

Discussing Sibal, a party insider said that he would, in all probability, have been offered a place in the cabinet this time if it was not for Copenhagen.

Manmohan Singh already has a seasoned envoy on climate talks in former foreign secretary Shyam Saran, who is likely to continue in the post, an MOE&F official said. But a senior political leader who was experienced and successful in multilateral international negotiations would also come in “very handy”, he added.

Both Kamal Nath and Sibal have huge reputations on this score.

Kamal Nath successfully brought the concerns of developing countries to the fore at the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit in 1992 when he was the environment minister. More recently, he was the one who stuck to his guns at the World Trade Organisation negotiations despite immense pressure from industrialised countries.

Sibal led the Indian delegation at the seminal summit of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Bali, Indonesia, in December 2007, where he simply refused to give in to the demands of industrialised countries and got his way.

“With Saran and with either Kamal Nath or Sibal jointly leading the Indian delegation, we will be far more confident that India’s interests will not be compromised at the Copenhagen negotiations in any way,” the official said, requesting anonymity.

The UNFCCC summit in Copenhagen this December is scheduled to finalise a treaty by which industrialised countries will commit to reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that are leading to global warming, as a follow-up to the Kyoto Protocol.

Industrialised countries have been putting immense pressure on India and China to also commit to reduce or cap their GHG emissions, which India is resisting stoutly so far, as that will affect energy generation through conventional sources such as coal and oil.

China is now the world’s top GHG emitter, while India is fifth, though India’s per capita emission is five percent of that of the US. Manmohan Singh promised in 2007 that India’s per capita emission would never cross that of an industrialised country, an offer that has had few takers so far in these countries.

The bickering over these points has already started, and is expected to reach a crescendo in Copenhagen.

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