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South could be greener if West provided funds: PM

world Updated: Jun 22, 2012 09:08 IST
Hindustan Times
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No money, no honey is also true for the environment. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh tucked away this truth near the end of his plenary statement, "Many countries could do more if additional finance and technology were available."

But it was a message repeatedly made by Indian officials during the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. "The Rio summit's accomplishments were the best that could be expected under the present conditions of the world economy," said Manjeev Singh Puri, India's deputy permament representative to the UN.

The "weak text" of the Rio+20 summit, much excoriated by the environmental NGOs and some governments, simply mirrored the weakness of the world economy.

The developing world was prepared to do more, but insisted that the West would have to provide funds and knowhow to handle the extra economic costs this would impose. "Economic activity invariably results in negative spinoffs," said Singh. Run it backwards: controlling pollution means less wealth creation.

And wealth creation is everything for poor countries. "The 1992 Rio summit correctly acknowledged that poverty eradication must remain the overriding priority for developing countries," said Singh.

India and other developing countries fought off Western attempts, led by Europe, to force green compliance on at least the emerging economies without compensation. The emerging economies fought back.

Singh praised the "reaffirming" of the principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities (separate green standards between rich and poor) at Rio de Janeiro. This had not been easy. "Just to hold the West to their old commitments was a difficult task," says Puri.

The Rio conference did take a few steps behind a rehashing of the principles of the original 1992 Rio earth summit. Indian officials point out that two mechanisms were set up to look at the contentious issues of finance and technology. A process was also set up to look into sustainable development goals and "the ways and means" to reach the sort of hard green figures and timelines that the West wants.

The West got a promise to work towards the hard green goals it wants in return for an iteration of the principle that this would be done if they provided some of the funds. "At the global level, our approach to (environmental sustainability) should be guided by equitable burden sharing," said Singh. Green without greenbacks is just another form of brown.