Environment minister Jairam Ramesh made a bold statement in Cancun climate summit stating India is willing to accept binding commitments under an appropriate legal form, considered as a deviation from India's stand. In conversation with Chetan Chauhan, Jairam Ramesh gives reasons for it.
Why did you make this statement at Cancun?
We have to accept the changing global reality. G-77 (whose part India is) has been vocally calling for legally binding instrument. South Africa and Brazil, which are part of our Basic group (others are India and China), have also been asking for the same. Our neighbours Bangladesh, Maldives, Nepal and Bhutan have made a similar assertion. Island nations, which is a strong group of 43 nations, had made a strong case for legally binding agreement for all countries. India, China, Bolivia, Philippines and Saudi Arabia had expressed reservations on legally binding nature. We have to be sensitive to all groups.
Is it not a deviation from India's position on climate change?
Not going against our fundamental position. That is not a legally binding agreement at this stage. I have just said that all countries must agree to binding commitments under a appropriate legally binding form. It is not a deviation. For one week we opposed legally binding agreement as we don't know the contents of the legally binding agreement, don't know what penalties will be imposed for non-compliance and do not know the monitoring system.
Is it for the first time you have made such a statement?
Yes, for the first time I have said this.
So, is it a deviation?
The cabinet has given me a mandate not to agree to any legally binding agreement at this stage, which I have not crossed. We have been opposing invoking Article 17 of the convention, which allows legally binding agreement, for a week. What I said was to keep India's options open in global climate negotiations. I don't want to put India in a corner. We should have room to maneuver for the next two years.
Is it part of our "flexible" climate approach?
This is part of a flexible approach. We are flexible on ICA (International Consultancy and Analysis for domestic mitigation actions), forestry and technology issues. I will like to reiterate that I have not violated any cabinet decision. Have been faithful to it.
Were you under any pressure?
No. It was a deliberate decision to expand India's room in negotiations for the next one year till the Durban climate summit. India can attain global leadership by only expanding its negotiating space. Negotiating position must evolve in time with reality. It cannot remain frozen over a period of time. I admit our position has evolved, keeping in mind India's changing global role.