India needs to clarify what it is willing to do to limit the growth of its emissions

Written by Rajiv Tikoo | Updated: Oct 27 2009, 04:31am hrs
Yvo de Boer is a worried man. As chief of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), he is leading the global climate change negotiations. The concluding session in Copenhagen is less than six weeks away and the major issues are still unresolved. In his own words, the summit would succeed only if there is a clarity on four major issues. These include greenhouse gas emission reduction targets for industrialised countries, action plans of major developing countries like China and India to limit the growth of their emissions, provision of financial support by industrialised countries to developing countries to undertake adaptation and mitigation measures, and an institutional framework for leading global action on climate change. If any one of these issues remains unresolved, the summit would be a failure because all these issues have a bearing on one another. He spoke to FEs Rajiv Tikoo during his recent visit to India. Excerpts:

Given the state of negotiations and the time constraint, is it realistically possible to achieve a robust agreement in Copenhagen

I am not a prophet. Its very difficult for me to say. We do have the architecture under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol. So, I believe its technically possible to get an agreement finalised in Copenhagen. The problem is not the technical issue. The problem is the political will.

What is the biggest issue in achieving a deal

The emission reduction targets announced by developed countries are not ambitious enough. But fixing targets is a relatively simple job. For example, getting the US, which has not ratified the Kyoto Protocol, on board is a more complicated process.

What about financing Isnt lack of progress a big cause of concern

Earlier, there were many countries that thought financing could be resolved at the end. But is no longer so. Its not a question of signing cheques. Developing countries want to have the confidence that the money would be put on the table. Many countries, including the EU, have already come forward.

UNFCCCs Adaptation Fund has not taken off till now. Developing countries say that rich countries prefer to channel money through World Banks climate funds because they can control them better. How are you going to resolve the issue

The Adaptation Fund is a new fund and has not taken off. We expect it to be fully operational before the Copenhagen summit. Its financed by a 2% levy on the proceeds of Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects. I dont know how much money committed to the World Bank has come to it. You cant take promises to the bank. I think the key issue is how the money is going to be channelled. Whether its going to be through the Adaptation Fund or through existing financial mechanism or both But what is clear is that developing countries want to be in better control of managing that money.

Why is a distinction being made between major and other developing countries on the issue of financing

Adaptation money cant and should not go to everyone. There is a sense that it should be targeted to the poorest people. And not all the poorest people live in poor countries. In any case, big developing countries are using market mechanisms like CDM better. We also need to create room for small and medium countries to access market-based financial support for mitigation. Some big developing countries are not even looking for financial support. They are looking for technology.

Some countries have suggested that the IPR regime should provide for compulsory licensing in the case of clean technology on the lines of HIV drugs. Why is it not finding favour

We can learn from the HIV example. But let us remember, in the case of HIV drugs, it was a question of a few drugs from a handful of companies. In the case of clean technology its a case of thousands of technologies from hundreds of companies, making it that more difficult. You have to respect an individuals investment in developing new technologies and his intellectual property rights.

How do you assess Indias apparent change in position to do more to fight climate change

Does a zebra have black or white stripes Indias position has been consistent. Indias Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said that the countrys per capita emissions would not exceed those of industrialised countries. India is keen to green its growth. But India is not willing to take on targets. Environment minister Jairam Ramesh has been saying the same thing. At the same time, India has said that it is willing to report more often, report in great detail and have those reports considered internationally. I know it is creating a bit of a fuss here, but I think it is a major step forward, a very positive sign.

When China announced that it would reduce CO2 emissions by a notable margin, it was praised. But why does India continue to be the bad boy even after launching so many initiatives

I dont think there is a doubt about Indias seriousness. I think India has a bit of an inferiority complex about how the world is seeing it. I think more people praise India for what its doing than criticise it. It is also true that Indias actions are not being given due recognition by the international community. I do think that more can be done to recognise the actions that India has taken. There is perhaps more scope to explain what India is doing. I think its more an issue of poor communication. Maybe India needs to ask China whether it can borrow their PR firm.

So, you think it is only a matter of poor communication

What perhaps puts India in the spotlight more is the fact that the country has been very vocal in not wanting to commit to emission reduction targets. But then it is a bizarre discussion because nobody is asking developing countries to commit to reduce their emissions in absolute terms.

What more should India do

A number of Indias missions are, well, missions, statements of intent. They still have to be backed up by concrete plans. From a political point of view, it needs to be clarified in Copenhagen what major developing economies like India are willing to do to limit the growth of their emissions. And they need to clearly say that they are committed to take this path. No sane person is expecting India to take emission reduction targets. Everyone recognises the issue is about slowing the growth of emissions. What I would like India to do is to say how they intend to implement their action plan. They should say this is the maximum they can do on their own while safeguarding their development objectives. How much more can they do if international support is forthcoming And by what percent would they limit the growth of their emissions and by what date

What is your worst fear about the Copenhagen outcome

My worst fear is about the agreement not being 100% clear. I dont want 100 countries to interpret it in 100 different ways. We should not be spending time arguing how to implement the agreement than implementing it.