The head of a UN body that shared this year's Nobel Peace Prize says India should cap its per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at lower levels than pledged by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Rajendra K. Pachauri, who is also a member of the prime minister's task force on climate change, was commenting on Manmohan Singh's promise to match India's GHG emissions at the same per capita level as developed countries.
Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), told IANS on the sidelines of a UN conference here: "The prime minister's commitment is okay as a negotiating tactic."
Asked if India should limit its GHG emissions at the level announced by Manmohan Singh at the G8 summit in June, Pachauri replied: "No, it should be lower."
The position taken by Pachauri, whose IPCC shared the Nobel Prize with former US vice president Al Gore for his work on climate change, puts him at cross purposes with India's current development strategy.
Pachauri earlier told a workshop of journalists from 12 Asian countries: "China and India have to find a new development path. We cannot take the same path as the one taken by developed countries. It would be extremely short-sighted and foolish to do that."
The workshop -- on the theme of climate change and human development -- was organised by the United Nations Development Programme.
"If we emulate developed countries, it will be at our peril," Pachauri warned. "We need leaders who can change" the current development model.
The IPCC chief agreed that there was "growing pressure from developed countries on developing countries to take on some targets for greenhouse gas emission limits. We need to break the North-South barrier on this and come up with some rational approaches that will allow development and also address the problem of climate change."
When it comes to targets, "the principle of per capita emissions provides a very good basis for dialogue", Pachauri said.
India, China and other developing countries have not accepted any binding GHG emission cap so far. They argue that developed countries must cap and reduce their emissions since they are responsible for almost all GHG added to the atmosphere in the 20th century, leading to disastrous global warming.
The average per capita emission of GHG is two tonnes in India, around five tonnes in China and 20 tonnes in the US.
India's total emission of GHG is equal to the increase in emissions by the US between 1990 and 2005 alone. Developed countries have reached their current levels of prosperity through a route that has led to these emissions.
That is why developing countries emphasise that it is the overwhelming responsibility of developed countries to reduce GHG emissions, while developing countries have a right to develop. That implies a right to emit more GHG.
But scientists associated with the IPCC have pointed out that China and then India will become the world's largest emitters of GHG in the 21st century if they continue business as usual.
If their per capita GHG emissions reach anywhere close to that of developed countries at present, the world's average temperature rise will go beyond the 5 degrees Celsius "tipping point". Beyond this, catastrophe can be expected.
Pachauri said there should be no rise beyond 2.4 degrees Celsius. For that, there should be no rise in GHG emissions after 2015. On the contrary, the emissions have to decline.
He emphasised that the ill effects of global warming would be felt most keenly by the poor people in developing countries like India and China, as agriculture and water supply became affected. So it was in the interest of all countries to reduce GHG emissions.