India is under pressure from industrialised countries to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 15-30 percent by 2020.
India's negotiators are meeting their counterparts from G77 couontries and China throughout this weekend in Bonn to formulate a joint response.
The mandatory GHG emission reduction target has been included in the negotiating text that has been put on the table by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) for its meet that begins in Bonn Monday. It's the second of three preparatory meetings on way to the climate summit in Copenhagen in December.
"This is the first time a mandatory emission reduction target has been officially proposed in UN draft," said a veteran Indian negotiator here. He expected India to oppose it strongly, though his erstwhile colleagues now in Bonn said they were still "formulating a joint response with the G77 and China, so that we're not singled out later".
The proposed reduction target for developing countries, which is still in brackets - which in UN jargon means there's no agreement on it - is 15-30 percent by 2020, measured from a 2000 baseline.
For industrialised countries, the proposed target is a 25-40 percent reduction by 2020 and 75-85 percent by 2050, measured from a 1990 baseline. All that is in brackets as well.
Industrialised countries have pledged to reduce their emissions by five percent from 1990 by 2012 though it is unclear how many of them will meet this mandatory target.
Japan has already called 40 percent reduction "unrealistic" while the US has indicated its inability to meet it, pointed out Sunita Narain, head of the Centre for Science and Environment.
"The ball is in the court of the industrialised countries," Narain told IANS. "And given the way some of these countries are reacting, I don't know what, if anything, will come out of Copenhagen. But it's still early days in the negotiating process; you'll see these figures changing many times."
Srinivas Krishnaswamy, policy adviser to Greenpeace India, told IANS:
"Developing countries are bound to get irritated if mandatory reduction targets are suggested in this manner, but just a little deviation from business as usual will achieve a 15 percent reduction in emissions.
"All you have to do, for example, is to reduce coal-based power generation by about 15,000 megawats a year, and make this up through solar power and energy efficiency measures. In the process, you are also improving your own energy economy in the long run."
India has so far stoutly refused to commit to any mandatory GHG emission reduction target, arguing that most of the extra GHG in the atmosphere today has been put there by industrialised countries, so these countries must reduce their GHG emissions further.
Emissions of GHG - mostly carbon dioxide - are leading to climate change, which is turn is affecting farm output, causing more frequent droughts, floods and storms, and raising the sea level. India is among the worst affected countries.
To a large extent, reducing GHG emissions means moving away from generating energy from coal, a step that runs counter to India's plans. Indian negotiators have pointed out that it is unfair to ask a country to move away from the cheapest generation source, when over 400 million of its people are still not connected to the electricity grid.
But industrialised countries have pointed out that India is already the world's fourth largest GHG emitter - China is first and the US second - and climate change cannot be controlled without more effort on the part of large developing countries like China and India.
The Prime Minister's Special Envoy on Climate Change Shyam Saran has said:
"India has declared that even as it pursues its social and economic development objectives, it will not allow its per capita GHG emissions to exceed the average per capita emissions of the developed countries. This effectively puts a cap on our emissions, which will be lower if our developed country partners choose to be more ambitious in reducing their own emissions."
Indian negotiators have also said there can be no question of developing countries agreeing to reduce or even cap GHG emissions unless industrialised countries fulfil their commitment to help them do so - by providing money and transferring technology.
Kim Carstensen, leader of the Global Climate Initiative of the NGO World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), said: "The negotiating text needs to strengthen and flesh out an adequately financed and new institutional set up under UNFCCC that provides the support needed for emission cuts and adaptation to climate impacts in the developing countries."