The discussion on global warming in Parliament will end with the statement of environment minister A Raja, possibly on Monday. He is bound to restate the country’s position on climate change in the international arena — that countries must bear “a common but differentiated responsibility” for climate change, a phrase that is the central pin of the Kyoto Protocol.
De-jargonised, it means, while every country is adding to the problem, there are some that are more responsible than others, and should, therefore, bear the burden and costs of cleaning up more than the smaller culprits
The US, between 1950-2003, emitted 10 times more carbon dioxide than India did. Europe emitted 8.5 times more. Yet US and Australia, two of the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, have refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol (which asks developed countries to reduce their emissions) on the pretext that developing countries like India and China are not undertaking emission cuts.
Worse still, if one looks at per capita emissions from different countries, which is a more equitable way of calculating emissions if one was to go by the principle that each person has as much right to the atmosphere as another, then India ranks a mere 120 compared to US which ranks 6 and Australia 10 on the culprits’ list. This is taking the emission levels of 2003.
Well, they are right, and they are wrong too. The developed world has a lot to more to cut back on and should make the bulk of the cuts. But India and China also need to grow using current state of the art knowledge, not using the 1950s coal intensive, energy inefficient model of increasing supply without paying attention to demand. We have also come to realize that IPCC reports, due to their consensual nature, are conservative. So, they will tend to understate the effects of climate change and overstate the costs. It may not be as expensive in India and China as long as attention is being paid to hw the infrastructure is being developed.