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India shifts climate focus to First World

New Delhi, Aug. 8: Union environment and forests minister Prakash Javadekar today iterated India’s long-standing position on climate change, highlighting voluntary actions taken to curb Earth-warming greenhouse gas emissions and calling on the developed countries to do more.

Javadekar, speaking at a meeting of the environment ministers of Brazil, China, and South Africa, said India has taken a number of actions on a voluntary basis using its own resources to pursue a strategy of sustainable development, but the developed countries need to show more action.

“We are at a critical stage in our efforts to combat climate change,” Javadekar said. “While science prompts us towards greater action, we find that the response of countries is not adequate. We must incentivise action, the first step in this regard is enhanced action by the developed countries.”

The meeting of the environment ministers and officials from the four countries — known by the acronym BASIC — is part of their efforts to build a consensus ahead of a key international conference next year that is expected to unveil a new global pact to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

The 2015 pact is expected to be a universal agreement on climate that will bind all countries, including large greenhouse gas emitters.

An international panel of scientists had warned earlier this year that the world would need to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent by 2030 and by 70 per cent by 2050 and reduce them to zero by 2100 to prevent average global temperatures to rise beyond 2C.

The primary source of greenhouse gases are transport and power plants that run on fossil fuels. While the developing countries have long blamed the developed countries for their historical emissions, the developed countries have been arguing that large emitters such as India and China should also contribute to avert global warming.

Sections of environmental scientists have long argued that local governments should take initiatives to curb emissions independent of climate change negotiations.

“City governments and municipal bodies can themselves promote public transport and discourage private vehicles as local measures to curb emissions,” said Harini Nagendra, an ecologist with Azim Premji University in Bangalore.

“Citizens groups could actually put pressure on local governments on such issues,” Nagendra said. In Bangalore, for instance, a group of citizens is asking the city to establish a railway link to the airport.

Javadekar, in his address, outlined several initiatives by India, including investments proposed by the Narendra Modi government through the 2014-15 budget such as Rs 500 crore for ultra-mega solar projects in Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Ladakh, Rajasthan, and Tamil Nadu.

The minister also iterated India’s commitment to reduce the emissions intensity of its gross domestic product by 20 per cent to 25 per cent by 2020 over the level in 2005, a plan first unveiled by former environment minister Jairam Ramesh.

In a joint statement, the BASIC ministers said the contribution of the developing countries to mitigation efforts is “far greater” than that of developed countries and could be further enhanced if the developed countries effectively implement and increase their commitments of providing finance, technology, and capacity-building support to the developing countries.

In earlier climate change talks, the developed countries had agreed to provide funds to help the developing countries acquire new technologies that will help them curb their greenhouse gas emissions.

The ministers expressed their “disappointment” over the continued lack of any clear roadmap for providing the $100 billion per year by developed countries by the year 2020 as had been pledged in the past.