India’s emission cap can help resolve climate impasse: UNEP chief (Interview)

February 7th, 2009 - 1:42 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Feb 7 (IANS) A “voluntary signal” from India on where and when it will cap its greenhouse gas emissions can help resolve the current impasse holding up a global deal to combat climate change, says UN Environment Programme chief Achim Steiner.”It is in India’s own interest to make the transition to a low-carbon economy,” Steiner, the UN under secretary-general and UNEP executive director, told IANS in an interview here. “It makes perfect economic rationale.

“In that process, if India brings to the international negotiations table voluntary signals on the level at which it will cap its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, it will greatly help resolve the impasse on the road to Copenhagen.”

Steiner was referring to negotiations for a new global treaty that should be finalised during the next climate summit to be hosted in Copenhagen this December. Negotiations have been stalled by the insistence of industrialised countries, led by the US, that emerging economies like India and China commit themselves to a cap in emissions of GHGs - mainly carbon dioxide - that are leading to climate change.

Most developing countries, including India, have so far refused to set a cap on their GHG emissions, saying it would be unjust, as almost all the extra GHG in the atmosphere today has been put there by industrialised countries.

In response, industrialised countries point out that India is already the world’s fourth largest GHG emitter. Climate change caused by excess GHGs is lowering farm output, making droughts, floods and storms more frequent and more severe, and raising the sea level.

Steiner said: “India is in a wonderful position to take advantage of the global green new deal that can get the world out of financial and climate crises at the same time. For its own energy security, it is in India’s interest to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.”

In the process, Steiner said, “If India sets (GHG emission cap) targets for itself at some future date, it will create very interesting pressure” on industrialised countries.

The UNEP head was optimistic about a new global climate deal being found at the Copenhagen summit. Asked if industrialised countries would commit to reduce their GHG emissions 25-40 percent as asked for by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, he said: “Remember, Germany is already committing to 40 percent cuts.”

“Look out for a major climate change bill in the US in the next 100 days,” Steiner predicted, though he was not so sure if the bill would pass the US congress. Still, “we’re seeing significant movement on an unprecedented scale”.

Steiner agreed that financial help from industrialised to developing countries to cope with the effects of climate change as well as reducing their GHG emissions was essential for a successful treaty in Copenhagen.

“The public financing needed (to combat climate change) is $150 billion per year, which will trigger private investment of $2 trillion.”

The UNEP head was here to attend the Feb 5-7 Delhi Sustainable Development Summit (DSDS), where he told a session Friday: “$150 billion a year is nothing compared to the trillions we are now spending to save our bacon”, referring to the bailouts in response to the financial crisis.

“An additional $10 per barrel of oil will generate $180 billion per year,” Steiner told the 800-odd delegates gathered for DSDS.

“If Copenhagen fails, it will be the biggest abdication of political leadership the world has ever seen.”

(Joydeep Gupta can be contacted at joydeep.g@ians.in)

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