India set its first emission target on Thursday, announcing it would reduce emission intensity by 20-25 per cent of its 2005 level by 2020.
<b1>Outlining India’s "flexible" stand for the Copenhagen summit of 192 nations starting on Monday, Environment and Forest Minister Jairam
Ramesh told Lok Sabha: “It won’t be an international commitment. We have agreed to it voluntarily and will achieve it irrespective of an agreement in Copenhagen.”
Emission intensity is a measure of emissions per unit of gross domestic product (GDP). For India, the target would mean emissions would increase to achieve 8-8.5 per cent GDP growth but its pace would fall. According to the Planning Commission, by 2020, India’s emission intensity would be half that of China, which last week announced an emission intensity reduction target of 40-45 per cent from 2005 levels.
India is the world’s fourth largest carbon emitter, China the biggest. India’s emission intensity fell 17.6 per cent between 1990 and 2005.
Ramesh said the target would be met by shifting from hydrocarbons to renewable sources such as solar and wind power. Another way is to increase the efficiency of using hydrocarbons (petrol, coal).
The minister said taking legally binding emission cuts and a peaking year for emission, as proposed by rich countries, was unacceptable and this was non-negotiable. But, he said, India was willing to discuss international scrutiny of domestic mitigation actions, which it has opposed so far.
Ramesh said all this took India’s climate position beyond the per capita emission approach, without compromising on it. “Per capita, accidental to India because of its high population, cannot be the only point of negotiations. We have to offer more to ourselves and to the world.”
India’s per capita carbon emission is 1.2 tonnes per year as compared to 20.1 of the US, the world’s second largest emitter.
At the debate in the House, the young MPs argued in favour of emission cuts. Senior MPs such as MM Joshi (BJP) felt India should not bow to the rich countries. “Change the domestic development model, make it more sustainable. Don’t repeat the mistakes of the West or else mother planet will kill us all,” Joshi said.
“I am not going to sell the country’s honour. I will protect its interests while ensuring a global leadership role for India,” Ramesh said.
Sunita Narain of Delhi-based NGO Centre for Science and Environment said India was offering too much and getting little in return. “Rich countries should pay for our big-ticket investments for solar and renewables.” Greenpeace said the onus was now on the rich countries to commit to deep carbon cuts.