Everyone seem to be in a hurry to declare the Copenhagen meet dead even before it opens. India's Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh is the latest to plunge the knife, as it were. He said on Thursday that his country won't accept any legally binding emission cuts.
The very same politician had got into some hot waters last month when he wrote to the Prime Minister suggesting that India break ranks with the other developing countries and go for some radical reduction in greenhouse gas emissions on its own without expecting any financial compensation from the West.
There was such an uproar that the he was forced to beat a hasty retreat, apparently directed by the PM himself. Since then he has been stating the country's position rather aggressively, though mitigating its impact by asserting anyway India would do what it could to cut down the emissions in its own interests.
Releasing the 'State of World Population 2009' report of the United Nations Population Fund, he said. "We need to distinguish international commitments from our domestic obligations. Our position in international fora will strengthen if we are seen to be serious with our domestic obligations."
He said low-carbon sustainable growth would be central to the 12th Five Year Plan, and efforts were on to convert Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions into Nationally Accountable Mitigation Outcomes by indicating specific targets for industry, energy, transport, agriculture, buildings and forestry for 2020 and 2030.
He was also at pains to stress that a faster industrial growth would necessarily lead to more emissions.
He said such was not an iron law. Comparative analyses of the lifestyles of the most consumerist class in the developed world with their Indian counterparts had shown that India had a low consumption pattern. "So it is not necessary that we will follow the U.S. and Chinese trajectory," Mr. Ramesh said, using the Gandhian philosophy to say that this was a great opportunity to demonstrate a new paradigm for economic development.
He dismissed the view that black carbon was more dangerous than greenhouse gases. Even while admitting that India had a problem on this count, Mr. Ramesh said that the scientific link between black carbon and global warming and the retreat of the Himalayan glaciers had not been established as yet.
Black carbon is expelled into the air during the burning of biomass for cookstoves and of black coal for electricity, and also by the incomplete combustion in the old diesel engines. The resulting air blanket gives rise to a host of respiratory problems, but its contribution to global warming is disputed by many in the developing world.
"Yes, we need to address the issue of black carbon because of public health, but Copenhagen is about greenhouse gases. Let us not shift the debate because the developed world is unable to control GHGs," the minister snapped.