It's crunch time for the climate. There's a little over four months until world leaders will converge in Copenhagen to hammer out a new global climate pact. Much attention has been paid to what the U.S. and China will agree to before talks begin, but don't sleep on India, whose population exceeds 1 billion and is a rapidly expanding economy. On Friday, India announced that they support a deal in Copenhagen, but they reiterated their stance that they will not adopt mandatory binding emissions reductions.On Friday, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh Ramesh told reporters in New Delhi:
"We are not defensive, we are not obstructionist. We want an international agreement in Copenhagen." But India "simply is not in a position to take on legally binding emissions reductions targets," he said, while pressing rich nations to provide technical and monetary aid to help developing countries fight global warming.
India, and fellow emerging market heavyweight China, have consistently opposed binding emission cuts in a new climate treaty until developed nations, particularly the United States, present sufficient targets of their own.
India joins China in their belief that mandatory cuts are unfair and untenable for the two emerging economic powers. Both maintain having to meet cuts will stop them from creating economic prosperity as rich countries have done by using dirty fuels like oil and coal.
The arguments are a litmus test for world leaders and will show just what form of justice they believe in. Perhaps they will settle on retributive justice, where rich countries must now pay for the sins of the past. But they may favor restorative justice, in which rich countries make it up to developing countries while pursing new agreements that benefit all.
Per capita emissions remain low in India when compared with developed countries. The average Indian creates one metric ton of carbon dioxide for every 20 metric tons the average American creates. But India's huge population places it among the big polluters of the world, irrespective of per capita emissions.