Jairam Ramesh swims against India tide at Paris climate summit

  • Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times, Paris
  • Updated: Dec 07, 2015 03:02 IST
Former environment minister and Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said that we can voluntarily revise our INDCs depending on our national circumstances but it cannot be legally binding. (HT File Photo)

Former environment minister and Congress leader Jairam Ramesh wants Paris to commit to a new generation of climate action plans by every country once in five years and India should declare a plateau year for its coal consumption.

His views in Paris on Saturday contradicted India’s official position when nearly 200 nations were trying to forge a new pact on climate change.

The country has submitted its climate action plan for 2030, called Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), and opposed the idea of mandatory enhancement of the contribution before the target year.

“We can voluntarily revise our INDCs depending on our national circumstances but it cannot be legally binding,” Ajay Mathur, spokesperson for the country’s team of negotiators in Paris. “We don’t have a problem with stocktaking and the present differentiated review process.”

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In 2011, then environment minister Ramesh agreed to a legally binding term for the first time.

He has a different take from India’s current position, saying the INDCs are not going to be “sufficient to meet the 2 degrees Celsius target”.

“We know that no country is going to unveil new INDCs in Paris, but what every country must undertake in Paris is to review the current portfolio of INDCs may be five years from now, revisit what it can do to increase the level of ambition of what it can do,” he said.

The government is against declaring any timeframe for its emission to maximise like China, but Ramesh advocated a different approach saying India can say that by 2030 it will announce its coal consumption plateau period.

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“The way prices of solar equipment are falling it is a possibility. We should explore it,” Ramesh told a group of Indian journalists, when told that India was receiving flak for its continued dependence on coal. “We have to tell the world in stronger words that coal for India is a reality and it will remain so for some time.”

The Rajya Sabha member complimented Prime Minister Narendra Modi for putting India in a leadership role in solar energy by announcing a global alliance in Paris last Monday. But did not find anything surprising in Modi’s speeches, saying his stand for the Paris talks was not different from what his predecessor, Manmohan Singh, took at the 2009 Copenhagen conference.

“Manmohan Singh for the first time declared a so-called peaking for Indian emissions saying our per capita carbon release will not increase from that of the western average. Modi just reiterated that. May be in a better way,” he said.

Ramesh said India needs to adopt a more “ambitious” approach because there was more awareness domestically about the country’s increasing vulnerability to climate change. The extreme weather events in the past five years are a marker of the vulnerability and, therefore, India should be “proactive” at the talks, he advised.

He felt that the head of states segment on the first day of the Paris agreement did not help because the countries stuck to their stands and negotiators to their positions. As a result, the draft for the Paris package from negotiators is highly contentious and needs burning of midnight oil to have an agreement by next Friday.

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