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Climate talks at dead-end, says India

world Updated: May 10, 2010 01:05 IST
Reshma Patil

India has low expectations of reaching a global agreement to fight climate change when world leaders meet later this year in Mexico to take forward the bitterly divided Copenhagen talks held last December.

“We’ve reached virtually a dead-end,’’ Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh told the media in Beijing. “The prospect of a breakthrough is very, very remote. There’s no silver lining. At the most, there’ll be a political statement.’’

Ramesh said the political authority of the US to influence a binding agreement at Cancun (in Mexico) has eroded after failing to push through its own climate legislation. Both the US and China, the world’s top two polluters, are reluctant to make a major concession without the other side giving in first.

The US remains ‘very uncomfortable’ with the bonhomie between India and China in resisting pressure from the developed nations to make binding emission cuts.

“India was critical to China in Copenhagen,’’ he said. “The Chinese know it in their hearts that India was absolutely essential... we saved China from isolation. If a deal had not been signed Obama would have gone back to the US and painted China as the devil.”

After a watered-down Copenhagen statement was signed, recalled Ramesh, China’s top climate negotiator Xie Zhenhua ‘thumped his fist twice on the table and shouted at US President Barack Obama’. Obama reportedly defused the tension by saying that Xie was congratulating them.

“I guess he was trying to say that the Americans were not fulfilling their part of the bargain,’’ Ramesh said. India emits about 4.5 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gases, compared to China’s 23 per cent.

‘India should build on the Brahmaputra’

India should build hydel power projects on the Brahmaputra to strengthen negotiating power with China, said Ramesh.

“The great fear in India has been that China would divert Brahmaputra to feed its southwest,” Ramesh said. “We need to discuss it bilaterally. It's going to be slow going. The answer also lies in India building hydel projects on the Brahmaputra.”