Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh Stands Firm on Emissions

NEW DELHI, Nov. 19 (UPI) — Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh Thursday said his country would never agree to legally binding emissions and downplayed expectations for the climate-change summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, next month.

“Internationally we reject legally binding emissions. We will never agree to that, and we are prepared to be alone in our stand, but domestically we have to be proactive in reducing carbon emissions,” Ramesh said in New Delhi while releasing a U.N. population report.

In resisting pressure to set limits on carbon output, India has long contended that doing so would slow its economic growth and that the responsibility for reducing greenhouse gases lies with longtime polluters.

Rather than committing to legally binding cuts internationally, Ramesh said, India needs to be “proactive, aggressive and ruthless” domestically to tackle climate change.

India currently emits about 3 billion tons of greenhouse gases each year, making it the world’s fourth-largest polluter.

“You should not have too much expectations from the Copenhagen summit. It looks like the negotiations would continue,” he said of talks set to begin Dec. 7 to thrash out a global deal on climate change to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

“It seems there is a long haul before we arrive at an international commitment,” Ramesh added.

Noting that climate change is a concern for India, Ramesh said his country has to regard the issue from a development perspective.

“I think there is an abundance of evidence to show that climate change is not related in any way to population growth,” he said, adding that it is more related to lifestyle. He pointed to China, saying that although it recorded negative population growth during the 1990s, its emissions continued to increase.

“Emissions are caused by consumption patterns. There is no iron law to say that India with its growing population has chances of increasing emissions,” he said.

India’s emissions are projected to rise to between 4 billion and 7.3 billion tons by 2031, according to a September report by non-governmental groups, including the global consultancy McKinsey & Co.

Ramesh said that low carbon growth would be part of the country’s new five-year plan. Some of the measures India needs to take include mandatory fuel efficiency standards, water legislation and renewable energy sources, he said.

On Wednesday Ramesh announced new standards for air quality, replacing the country’s 1994 standards and introducing limits for several pollutants not previously covered, including benzene, ozone, benzopyrene, arsenic, nickel and ammonia.

Ramesh said the new limits would push air quality standards in India to European levels.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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