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India Finally Gets Serious About Global Warming

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By Jake Schmidt

I'm in Copenhagen where Indian Minister of State for Environment & Forests Jairam Ramesh just gave a speech where he said: "We come to Copenhagen as a deal maker, not a deal breaker".
No I didn't mistake the dates of the international global warming
summit to be held in Copenhagen this December. I'm in Copenhagen a bit
early for a climate change event put on by Project Syndicate
(and which NRDC helped sponsor) where Minister Ramesh gave a speech to
editors from media outlets in over 110 countries. I also spoke at a
breakfast discussion on the state of international global warming

As my colleagues have pointed out (here and here),
there has been a noticeable shift in how India approaches international
efforts to address global warming pollution. This shift was definitely
noticeable in the speech he gave in Copenhagen. And he outlined some
of the concrete actions that India would undertake and how those would
fit within the international agreement.

So what did he say and what does it all mean for getting a strong international agreement?

Reasons why India must take action. Minister Ramesh highlighted at least three reasons that India needs to take action on global warming pollution:

  • Changes in the Indian monsoon are expected as a result of climate change which will have a very significant impact on India (as you can see from this article)
  • Melting of the Himalayan glaciers will have very large
    impacts on agriculture, water supply, and economic development for a
    large portion of the Asian population including India (as was pointed
    out in this recent article).
  • Increasing mean sea level could affect a large portion of
    the Indian population since India has 3,541 miles of coastland -- over
    three times the coastline of the State of Florida (as this post highlights).

This is one of the underlying currents that seem to often get missed
in the debate about what developing countries will do to address global
warming. As Minister Ramesh said (these aren't direct quotes as I was
writing fast): the lack of agreement in Copenhagen will impact us in
the developing world more than those in the developed countries, and
this is true for India (as you can see from the four impacts above
which would have significant ramifications on India).

"Nationally Accountable Mitigation Outcomes".
Minister Ramesh spelled out a slightly new perspective on the debate
about Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs) which is a key
part of the international debate about developing country emissions
reductions (as I discussed here).
He said that India would undertake a "Nationally Accountable Mitigation
Outcome". Here is what he meant by this new concept: we will undertake
domestic actions in our national law and we will be held accountable,
first and foremost, by our domestic political process and our people.

He elaborated that India would take action to reduce global warming
pollution and that as a part of a global agreement they would be
willing to report their emissions and actions every 2 years (through an
expanded and improved National Communications process). And he said
they would be willing to use those National Communications to begin a
dialogue with the world on their actions as they would be available

There are important differences between what Minister Ramesh
outlined and what the US put on the table in Bangkok for how they
proposed countries should "open up their books and defend them" (as I discussed here).
But the differences aren't actually as large as you might believe given
the recent debate in Bangkok. So stay tuned as I believe there is an
opening for an agreement on this front.

India will take actions in domestic law to address global warming. Minister Ramesh outlined 6 actions that are in very stages of being developed into Indian law:

  • Mandatory fuel efficiency standards by 2011;
  • Mandatory building codes by 2012;
  • Increasing forest cover so that the equivalent of 10% of India's annual emissions are sequestered in their forests;
  • Further 10% energy efficiency improvement by 2020 (my colleague discussed some of the steps that they have outlined towards that objective);
  • Increase the proportion of India's electricity from wind, solar,
    and small hydro to 20% in 2020 (from the current level of 8%); and
  • Make 50% of their new coal plants "clean coal" (he didn't specify
    how much of or if any of this would be from carbon capture and storage,
    which is hopefully going to be a part of this strategy).

A dealmaker in Copenhagen, let's hope. This was a
very positive signal from Minister Ramesh here in Copenhagen. Let's
hope that these signals continue and he achieves the implementation in
Indian law the set of actions that he outlined.

If India does add concrete specifics to those goals and is willing
to stand behind them in a meaningful way, then India might just be
helpful in getting a strong deal in Copenhagen. A deal that helps
India and the world achieve a future development which also addresses
global warming.


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