Not So Fast! Back-peddling Indian Environment Minister Says Nation's Climate Policy Unchanged

india bicyclist in the rain photo

photo: Craig Cloutier via flickr.

Not six hours ago reports surfaced of India's environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, writing a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh urging a more nuanced approach to climate policy going into COP15 -- delinking emission reduction commitments from financial assistance for climate change adaptation. Well, the Economic Times reports those comments have gotten Ramesh into hot water, forcing him to insist that India's climate policy is, in fact, unchanged:Media Reports 'Gross Distortion'
Ramesh characterized the media reports about the letter (first in the Times of India, then Reuters, where TreeHugger picked up the thread...) were a gross distortion, and that India's basic position regarding what the obligations of developed and developing nations should be required to do under a global climate change deal is the same as it ever was.

Basically, that India won't commit to binding international targets (but would implement some sort of domestic target) and that the rich nations of the world need to make deeper emission cuts, as well as provide assistance financially and technologically to developing nations.

The Gross Distortion Wasn't Really in the Media...
The thing is, at least from the media reports I've seen, Ramesh truly didn't suggest otherwise. All he said was that India needed to make emission reductions in its own interests, regardless of what financial assistance was forthcoming.

Ultimately this uproar, and back-peddling by Ramesh, is more Indian domestic politics and the desire for India to be perceived as a world leader than anything else -- as this quote from Bharatiya Janata Party leader Arun Jaitley shows:

This change in India's position completely breaks the unity of developing countries, which form a large group of 131 nations and are popularly referred to as G77. It will undermine India's credibility as a leader of the developing nations, even in the WTO talks on the Doha round which are currently underway.

More Nuanced Climate Policy a Good Thing
Which is all fine, the desire to be perceived as a leader, but apparently the tendency in politics to see the desire for nuance as weakness, and paint issues in either-or oppositions, knows no national boundaries. And a case such as this -- India being the world's fourth largest emitter of carbon, yet having per capita carbon emissions that could probably increase while still be sustainable (if everyone in the world had them...) -- a little more acceptance and understanding of nuance could do all parties some good.

More: Economic Times
Global Climate Change
India's Environment Minister Calls for Unconditional Emissions Cuts
India Won't Commit to Binding Emissions Reductions - Which is Why Rich Countries Must Make Deeper Cuts
We Need Clean Electricity in Our Homes - People in the West Need to Live With One Car

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