India must not sign the Copenhagen Accord on fighting climate change because it is "iniquitous" and "inefficient", says a leading green NGO, but the environment minister says the country should not be "evangelical".
"The Copenhagen Accord is weak, meaningless and fundamentally flawed," Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) Director Sunita Narain said here Friday. "It will be bad for the fight against climate change and bad for India."
But Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh pointed out that India had been closely involved in negotiating the accord. He has said earlier that India will sign it.
While the minister held that the accord had "settled many contentious points" between countries on how to fight climate change without giving up on development, Narain said: "It allows developed countries to increase (greenhouse gas) emissions... It does not set drastic emission reduction targets for these countries.
"If this accord is accepted, the world will not be able to meet the target of keeping global temperature rise within two degrees Celsius. It will be on course to at least three degrees and more - which will be disastrous for India's and the world's poorest and most vulnerable."
The Indian government has to decide this month if it will sign the Copenhagen Accord that was negotiated at the last moment during the Dec 7-18 climate summit in the Danish capital. India, along with China, Brazil, South Africa and the US, prepared the template of the accord.
Australia, Canada, Papua New Guinea and Maldives are the countries that have signed the accord so far. The deadline is Jan 31.
Recounting how the accord was reached at Copenhagen, Ramesh said at an interaction organised by the Aspen Institute of India that it was "floundering on three issues: whether the goal of arresting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050 should be expressed in terms of temperature or emission reduction or concentration of GHG in the atmosphere; what would be the international monitoring and verification regime for the mitigation actions of BASIC (Brazil, South Africa, India, China) countries; and whether the accord would be legally binding".
"We got 2.5 out of three," claimed the minister who was closely involved in the last-minute negotiations. "If you're evangelical you can never negotiate."
But Narain pointed out that the accord "legitimises inaction by industrialised countries and shifts the burden of the transition (to a low carbon economy) to developing countries. In this way, it rejects the principle of historical responsibility and equitable burden sharing, emphasised by the prime minister".
"The Copenhagen Accord is an accord to give the right to pollute to the biggest and most powerful," she charged, and added: "India must ask for its right to development."
The CSE chief quoted from a leaked paper of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change secretariat to say current GHG emission mitigation pledges amounted to reduction of 2.1 gigatons (gt) of carbon dioxide equivalent per year by rich countries and 5.2 gt by developing countries.
Carbon dioxide is the main GHG causing climate change, which is already affecting farm output, making droughts, floods and storms more frequent and more severe, and raising the sea level. India is among the world's most vulnerable countries.
Talking about the 1,201 gt cumulative carbon dioxide emissions from 1890 to 2007, Narain quoted a study by the International Energy Agency to point out that rich countries had emitted 58-60 percent of it (with the US alone accounting for 28-30 percent), while India had emitted three percent.
Under the Copenhagen Accord, she said, the US would be able to emit six gt of GHG in 2020, while India would be allowed to emit 3.6 gt. "The US has 4.5 percent of the world's population, India has 17 percent. To agree to this, we have to be either the world's most efficient country or the world's most criminally poor country."