India can’t be exempt from mandatory greenhouse gas emission cap: John Kerry

February 5th, 2009 - 10:45 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Feb 5 (IANS) India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change is “notably lacking in any fixed commitments and time-lines” on capping its greenhouse gas emissions, US Senator John Kerry said Thursday, throwing down the gauntlet to India in international climate negotiations.Calling this the “inescapable truth”, Kerry, who now chairs the Foreign Relations Committee of the US Senate and is one of the principal architects of that country’s plan to combat climate change, said the US Congress would not ratify any greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction target unless emerging economies like India and China agreed to cap their own emissions at some level at some point in the future.

Indian negotiators have so far steadfastly refused to do this, pointing out that the industrialised world is responsible for almost all the extra GHG in the atmosphere today, which is already lowering farm output, increasing frequency and severity of droughts, floods and storms and raising the sea level. The US is responsible for a quarter of all extra GHG in the atmosphere today, while India is responsible for four percent.

However, Kerry pointed out that India was already the world’s fourth largest emitter of GHG, and would become the third largest, overtaking Russia, by 2015 unless urgent steps were taken.

“America intends to lead on this issue after years in the sidelines,” Kerry said via live video to about 800 delegates gathered here for the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit. “But we can’t solve this without the committed participation of every nation.” He was referring to negotiations for a new climate treaty, that is supposed to be finalised by this December.

Kerry pointed out that in the current situation, all Himalayan glaciers could disappear by 2035, which would leave over a billion people at the mercy of seasonal rivers. “We must all hang together or we’ll hang separately,” he quoted from a saying during the American War of Independence.

Making a point that is likely to irk many developing countries including India, Kerry said: “We can no longer afford to divide the world into Annex 1 countries, G77 countries and all that.” Under the current Kyoto Protocol to combat climate change, Annex 1 countries are the industrialised countries that have to reduce their GHG emissions. The US has not ratified the protocol.

But many US cities and states have already moved beyond the requirements of the protocol, Kerry said. “Now, if we bring all US emissions down to zero, we’ll still have global catastrophe. We have a shared stake in getting this right.”

While criticising India’s plan for its lack of specific commitments and timelines, Kerry praised Mexico, South Africa, Brazil and the European Union for the commitments they have made.

To the other developing countries, Kerry said: “We’re collectively falling short. We cannot be driven by this lowest common denominator politics any longer. If there is catastrophe, no country can be exempt - not the US, not India.”

Kerry said the UN principle of “common but differentiated responsibility” in mitigating GHG emissions was the “key to success in Copenhagen”, which is hosting the climate summit in December.

“Developing countries have to play some kind of responsible role in solving the problem,” he went on. “The format, the structure and the timeline can vary depending on different situations and capabilities. And finance and technology transfer (from industrialised countries) will have to be a part of it.

“But we have to move beyond our old non-compromising positions”, while at the same time “not denying people around the world the right to prosperity”.

The leading US politician felt there was a huge opportunity for India in this as well. “Build power plants so that they burn clean,” he urged. “Use the carbon dioxide (the main GHG) from the flue gases to make calcium carbonate, which is a building material.” India’s Minister of State for Power Jairam Ramesh had said here Wednesday that this project had started in one plant in the country.

Describing green business opportunities as a “game changer”, Kerry pointed out that India had the world’s fourth largest installed wind power capacity and was now the second largest destination for clean technology investments. “It can get you $150 billion in the next decade.”

Kerry said: “We can’t afford not to do this. This will be at the centre of the revival of our economies. And if we don’t so it, we’ll have to pay for climate change anyway, through massive unpredictable weather events that can lead to war and all forms of human misery.”

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