India will not accept equal responsibility to cut emissions and combat climate change despite US President George W Bush's proposal for a deal among top emitters, officials said on Sunday.
Bush, under fire for resisting tough action on global warming, last week called on 15 influential countries -- led by the United States, China, Russia and India -- to agree by the end of 2008 on a long-term goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
The issue is a key topic of discussion at this week's G8 summit in Germany, where Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is expected to come under pressure from Bush and leaders of other developed nations to do more to curb emissions.
"We are willing to work in partnership in this process to cut emissions but we cannot accept equal responsibility," said a top foreign ministry official.
"We are not responsible for global warming so they cannot hold us up to it now," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "What is our per capita greenhouse gas emission? It is nothing."
India would work on a plan to propose a system under which responsibility to cut emissions would be differentiated depending on historical levels and per capita pollution, he said, without setting a deadline.
"Right now, this is all in the air," he said, referring to the Bush proposal.
India, whose economy has surged between 8 and 9 percent in recent years, currently contributes around three percent of global emissions as its consumption of fossil fuels gallops.
But as a developing nation, it is not required to cut emissions -- said to be rising 2-3 percent annually -- under the Kyoto Protocol despite mounting pressure from environmental groups and developed nations.
There is growing alarm around the world over global warming with several reports projecting more heatwaves, floods, desertification and rising seas because of increasing temperatures linked to greenhouse gases, mainly from fossil fuels.
Experts say the Indian subcontinent will be one of the most affected regions in the world, with more frequent natural disasters of greater severity, more diseases such as malaria and greater hunger.
Some global leaders have expressed hope Bush's plan might be a first step in more action from Washington, which decided against implementing Kyoto in 2001, saying it would cost US jobs.
But critics dismiss the strategy as a diversion and delaying tactic. The European Union's environment chief has called it unambitious.
Developing nations such as China and India say they need to focus more on growth and lifting their millions out of poverty rather than climate change.
Last week, India's environment secretary said New Delhi was spending 2.17 percent of GDP annually on addressing climate change issues and its existing energy policies would cut greenhouse gas emissions by over 25 percent by 2020.
India says it is also pursuing clean energy alternatives including through a landmark civilian nuclear energy deal with the United States, finalisation of which has got stuck due to differences between the two sides.
"Let them give us clean energy first. Then we can think of emission cuts," another top foreign ministry official, who did not want to be named, told Reuters.