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Poverty before global warming: India tells UN

India said that it could not be expected to limit use of fossil fuels, widely blamed for stoking climate change.

india Updated: May 16, 2006 22:16 IST

India said on Tuesday that rich nations must lead a fight against global warming, telling a 189-nation UN conference that developing countries should instead give priority to ending poverty.

India said that it could not be expected to limit use of fossil fuels, widely blamed for stoking climate change, when 35 per cent of its population lived on less than a dollar a day and many lacked electricity, clean water and other basics.

"Removal of poverty is the greater immediate imperative" than global warming, Prodipto Ghosh, Secretary, Ministry of Environment, said in Bonn (Germany), trying to work out new ways to fight climate change.

He said that India needed to use more energy to reach what he called "minimalist" development goals. Those included cutting poverty, raising literacy rates to 75 per cent by 2007 or increasing forest cover to 33 per cent of the nation by 2012.

"There will inevitably be greater greenhouse gas emissions," he said. "Placing curbs on the growth of greenhouse gases will entail reduced economic growth." India has about a billion people, almost a sixth of humanity.

He said that industrial states had to do most to reduce emissions from power plants, factories and cars. He urged a "significant strengthening" of cuts in emissions by almost 40 nations which support the UN's Kyoto Protocol.

The Bonn talks are discussing ways to widen UN-led action on global warming beyond rich nations, which support the UN's Kyoto Protocol to include developing nations and outsiders led by the United States and Australia.

"GLOBAL EFFORTS"

Kyoto backers say that other countries have to do more to help avert wrenching climate changes that could drive up sea levels by up to a metre by 2100, disrupt farming, spawn more floods and desertification and spread diseases.

UN reports say that developing nations are likely to be among the hardest hit.

Kyoto obliges industrial nations to cut emissions of heat-trapping gases by 5.2 per cent below 1990 levels by 2008-12 as a tiny first step to cut emissions.

"Global joint efforts are needed in the coming decades," the European Union said in a statement, saying Kyoto backers "will not be able to combat climate change effectively on their own."

It said Kyoto backers accounted for only about 30 per cent of all emissions in 2000. Among outsiders, the United States is the biggest source of emissions on 24 per cent, ahead of China on 12.1 per cent and India with 4.7 per cent.

The United States pulled out of Kyoto in 2001, saying it would cost jobs and wrongly excluded developing nations from a first round. Washington is instead making big investments in new technologies, ranging from hydrogen to solar power.

The Bonn talks started with talks among all nations on Monday and Tuesday. Kyoto nations will meet from May 17-25 to discuss how to extend the pact beyond 2012.

India also said that its energy use was low, and that India was more productive than Sweden or the United States when judged by how much energy it used per dollar of economic output.