UN body chief bats for India on climate change

April 25th, 2008 - 10:29 am ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh
By Joydeep Gupta
Singapore, April 25 (IANS) Backing India’s position in climate change negotiations, Georg Kell, executive director of the UN body Global Compact, has said emerging markets should be allowed to have the same standards of living as developed nations. “You can’t deny emerging markets the right to the same living standards as OECD countries,” says Kell, the first head of a UN body to publicly back India’s position on the issue.

The chief of the New York-based body that is the UN’s interface with the business community worldwide said there could be “no discrimination on the right to pollute, if you wish to put it that way. All people are equal.”

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had told the last G8 summit in Germany in June 2007 that per capita greenhouse gas emissions must be the same worldwide.

India’s per capita emissions are 1.2 tonnes a year, compared to 20.6 tonnes in the US. The global average is around four tonnes.

Since last June and till now the Indian position has found no takers in public fr om the industrialised countries or the head of any UN organisation.

Kell told IANS: “It’s a basic issue of equity.”

Even as he was speaking on the sidelines of the B4E (Business for the Environment) summit here Wednesday, Senior Adviser to UN Global Compact Claude Fussler walked up.

Kell told Fussler: “I’ve just been saying that per capita emissions worldwide must be equal. What do you think?”

Fussler said: “I’m not so sure. It sends a wrong message to the middle class in emerging markets. It gives them an excuse to hide behind the poor and keep increasing their carbon emissions.

“Today, consumers in Europe and North America are quite conscious of what they need to do to reduce their carbon footprints. Consumers in India and China should do the same.

“I agree with the principle, but human rights are an individual issue. They don’t go by flags.”

Kell said Fussler did have a point but added: “Financial and technology transfers from industrialised countries to help developing countries move towards a greener economy should definitely be on per capita basis.”

The Indian position has been strongly attacked, though mostly in private, by some industrialised countries led by the US.

With some industrialised countries, mainly the US, refusing to commit to mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions unless countries like India, China, Brazil and South Africa did so, climate change negotiations are stuck, though time is running out, as there is an end-2009 deadline to hammer out a new global deal.

Greenhouse gas emissions, mainly of carbon dioxide, are warming the atmosphere, which is already affecting farm output, leading to more frequent and more severe droughts, floods and storms and rising sea level, especially in the tropics and sub-tropics.

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