Copyrighted material


by T. V. Padma

on Bali global warming summit

(IPS) NEW DELHI, -- Painting China and India as the villains of climate change, while letting rich industrialized countries get away with rising emissions of greenhouse gases that cause global warming, is patently unfair says an internationally-reputed non-government organization (NGO).

Citing the projections of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the director of the Delhi-based Center for Science and Environment (CSE), Sunita Narain, told IPS that greenhouse gas emissions rose in most of the rich industrialized countries in the past five years, except Britain and Germany.

Between 1990 and 2004, total emissions in the United States rose by 1.2 billion tons, working out to a per capita increase of 1.3 tons per person per year. In that period India's total emissions rose by 0.4 billion tons, and the per capita increase was only 0.4 tons per person each year, Narain pointed out.

Figures on the IPCC website indicate a clear emissions divide. Per capita emissions of the main greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide (CO2), from fossil fuel combustion is 20 tons per year in the U.S., compared to four tons in China and 1.1 in India.

"How has India suddenly become the new villain?" she questioned, adding there is no comparison between the emissions of countries like India and China and the rich countries.

"There is a stock of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, built over centuries, as these countries developed," she observed. greenhouse gas of one U.S. citizen equals that of 107 Bangladeshis, 134 Bhutanese, 269 Nepalese and 19 Indians, she pointed out.

In November, a UN report setting targets for reducing emissions for developed and developing countries came under sharp attack by the Indian government.

Montek Singh Ahluwalia, deputy chairman of India's Planning Commission, that develops the country's five-year growth plans, while releasing the report turned around to attack it, calling 'unfair' and "fundamentally misconceived."

The United Nations Development Program's Human Development Report for 2007, set 80 percent reduction targets for developed countries and 20 percent for developing countries by 2050.

Narain too termed the UN report as "unacceptable," as it means the U.S. reduces from 19.3 tons per capita to 4 tons per capita, while India reduces from 0.8 tons per capita to 0.6, and China from 2.1 tons per capita to 1.7. Ahluwalia said the UNDP report was not based on the principle of equity and for once the government and a leading NGO were speaking in the same language.

A way out, said Narain, was to design a system of equity or equal per capita emission entitlements so that the rich reduce their emissions and the poor do not go beyond their climate quota.

She says one of the major reasons countries have not been able to reduce their CO2 emissions is that it is linked to both energy use and economic growth. "No one has built a low carbon economy yet," she pointed out.

Although technological options to reinvent growth exist -- such as clean coal technologies and renewables -- there have been few genuine initiatives on these fronts. Renewable energy options such as wind, solar, geothermal and biomass accounted for a mere 0.5 percent of the world's primary energy supplies in 2005

Between 1990 and 2005, rich countries' emissions went up by 11 percent and emissions from the energy sector rose by 15 percent. Australia's CO2 emissions rose by 37 percent, Canada's by 15 percent and that of U.S. by 20 percent.

Narain contends that industrialized countries are taking advantage of flaws in the clean development mechanism (CDM) under the Kyoto Protocol, which allows developed countries to invest in projects that reduce carbon emissions in developing countries and claim emissions reductions, instead of investing in more expensive emission-reducing technologies back home.

Industrialized countries are focusing on earning credits through CDM in the shortest possible time with the cheapest technologies, rather than opting for a transition to less-polluting, costlier technologies.

Narain attacked CDN as a "convoluted" and "corrupt" mechanism. By November 2007, the total global CDM portfolio shows 2.29 billion tons worth of CO2 equivalent would be credited over the next 10 years.

This would offset veery little -- less than one percent -- of total carbon emissions over the next 10 years, she said. 'There has been no transfer of high-end technologies from the rich to poor countries, or investment in clean coal technologies.'

Narain said countries like India and China should develop a low carbon strategy to reduce emissions, without compromising on their right to develop. She also suggested designing a system of equity or equal per capita emission entitlements so that the rich reduce their emissions and the poor do not go beyond their climate quota.

In such a system, first proposed by CSE in 1991, countries would be assigned entitlements based on their population. According to her, the systems should operate at two levels -- equity between countries and equity within a country.

"The rich in India emit like the rich elsewhere. It is the poor in India, with no access to energy, who provide us the breathing space. A per capita system means the rich pay for the excess energy use.

She described the CDM as a 'market mechanism,' rather than climate action, that allows developed countries to invest in projects that reduce carbon emissions in developing countries and claim them against emissions targets under the Kyoto Protocol.

The focus is on earning credits rather than making genuine efforts toward cleaner technology or energy, she said. For instance, there are few projects on solar energy, wind energy, high-end clean coal or forest planting in the activities available under the CDM.

Narain said one of the foremost tasks at the UN climate change conference in Bali, which began on Monday, should be to "reform and reinvent" CDM to make it more effective.

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Albion Monitor   December 7, 2007   (

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