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India claim on climate fight

Warsaw, Nov. 21: Environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan today spoke of India’s “voluntary” efforts to curb greenhouse emissions but several country-based campaigners said it should stand before a mirror and assess what it has done so far to combat climate change.

The criticism coincided with a mass walkout by groups, including Greenpeace and WWF, in a coordinated protest that could further dent public perceptions of the effectiveness of the UN climate talks in the Poland capital.

Natarajan’s defence of her country’s efforts came after some of the developed nations said India was backtracking on its 2011 Durban pledge on moving towards a 2015 accord on carbon cuts.

“Mr president… we are implementing the ambitious voluntary domestic goal of reducing the emission intensity of our GDP by 20 to 25 per cent by 2020 compared to the 2005 level,” she said at her plenary lecture, addressing Polish environment minister Marcin Korolec, the president of the Conference of Parties and climate change.

“We have already started taking action under our National Action Plan on Climate Change. We have set a target of generating 20,000MW of solar power by 2020 and already achieved about 1,200MW…. We have also introduced an innovative trading mechanism for energy efficiency.”

In Durban, India, along with the rest of the world, had agreed to sign a treaty in 2015 in Paris to shape the final roadmap for lowering emissions from 2020 onwards. India and other developing countries are under no legal compulsions now to cut emissions.

Natarajan, who along with representatives of Brazil, South Africa and China had earlier demanded action from the developed world before they committed to a post-2020 roadmap, also spoke of “a national clean energy fund”.

She said the fund had been set up by imposing a cess of Rs 50 on every tonne of coal for financing renewable energy and environment-friendly projects. “Most of our states have already planned their activities to tackle climate change,” she added.

Several India-based NGOs were, however, critical of Delhi’s role in Warsaw today. “India is getting back-to-back fossil of the day awards,” said Sanjay Vasisht, director, Climate Action Network, South Asia. NGOs give the “prize” in jest to countries for blocking climate talks.

Vasisht said India opposed the talks on “equity” yesterday at a meeting on the Durban plan despite emphasising the issue at several platforms. Equity means equal development rights of every country — basically, the right to use fossil fuels like coal to produce energy.

India, Vasisht said, was “not happy” with the draft on equity and wanted it “either reworked or deleted”. An Indian lead negotiator later told The Telegraph Delhi merely wanted certain aspects of the equity text deleted.

“India should stand in front of a mirror and assess what it has done so far apart from announcing programmes. Most of those Natarajan referred to today are still in their infancy,” said another Indian environmentalist who is also in Warsaw.

Hundreds of activists, including those from non-profit groups like Greenpeace, Friends of the World, WWF and Oxfam, walked out from the National Stadium today in protest at what they see as lack of progress towards a global deal to curb emissions.

“How many more years should we wait while people face the fury of climate change? The climate talks in Warsaw are supposed to create solutions to deal with increasing typhoons, rising seas and dying species. Instead of leading at these talks, rich countries are backtracking and blocking them,” said Harjeet Singh, a campaigner from a non-profit group.