Western nations are trying to use India‘s “profligate reproductive behaviour” to force Delhi to accept legally binding emission reduction targets, India’s environment minister said today.
Speaking at a conference in the Indian capital, organised by Delhi’s Centre for Science and Environment, Jairam Ramesh said there was a “move in western countries to bring population into climate change [negotiations]. Influential American thinktanks are asking why should we reward profligate reproductive behaviour? Why should we reward India which is adding 14 million people every year?”
Ramesh’s speech comes as the 100 day countdown begins to the UN climate change summit in Copenhagen, which will agree on a successor to the Kyoto agreement, due to expire in 2012. Developing nations such as India and China were not constrained by the Kyoto agreement, and western nations now argue that these rapidly growing economies should sign up to legally binding emission targets.
India’s population of over 1 billion means that while it is the world’s fifth biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, its per capita emissions are just one-twentieth of the United States. However, its population is rising quickly and the United Nations predicts India will have 1.7 billion people by 2050 – while China will by then have a population of 1.4 billion.
It is understood that American diplomats had raised the issue of overpopulation with the Indian delegation during talks when US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, visited New Delhi earlier this year.
Ramesh said that at “today’s state of development” India could not and should not accept “legally binding reduction targets”. The minister added that the Indian government saw per capita emissions rising from one tonne of carbon dioxide to “three or four” by 2030.
“For us this is about survival. We need to put electricity into people’s homes and do it cleanly. You in the west need to live with only one car rather than three. For you it is about luxury. For us survival.”
The Indian government – along with 37 other developing nations – has argued that rich nations such as the US should set a goal of cutting emissions by 40% from 1990 levels by 2020.
“Once developed countries have shown demonstrable proof of their seriousness then India can think of going to next stage. At a time when every (rich) country is in violation of the Kyoto protocol obligation to ask China and India to take on legal targets smacks of hypocrisy.”
Finance is one of the key sticking points, as poorer nations demand huge amounts of cash to buy technologies and adapt their nations to climate change. Richer nations have proved reluctant to commit. One recent estimate, highlighted by Pakistan’s chief Copenhagen negotiator, Farrukh Iqbal Khan, who has worked closely with Indian counterparts, put the cost at £265bn a year.
Asked what he might say to the UK climate change minister, Ed Miliband, who arrives next week, Ramesh said pointed out that the only leader to come up with a “concrete offer (of money)” was Gordon Brown. “He said earlier this year that there should be a fund of $100bn (£60bn). We don’t know if that is every year or what. But it is an offer on the table.”
Ramesh, who has just returned from Beijing, said that India and China had agreed to “coordinate all actions” before multilateral meetings. He said that the only difference was that a Chinese thinktank had called for Beijing to “peak emissions” by 2030. Ramesh said the Chinese chief negotiator on climate change had assured him that this was “thinktank policy not government policy”.