Wall Street Journal
NEW DELHI -- India has established one of the world's largest forest-protection funds and plans to set up a regulatory body modeled on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in an effort to improve its dismal environmental track record. The move comes even as the country resists firm caps on carbon emissions.
The $2.5 billion fund will be earmarked for the regeneration and management of forests, which have been identified by researchers as an important means of reducing carbon emissions, said Jairam Ramesh, India's minister of state for environment and forests, on Thursday. An additional $1 billion in public funds will be allocated for "forestry-related activities," according to a new report from the Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests.
Forest cover accounts for more than 20% of India's land, and it neutralizes more than 11% of India's total greenhouse-gas emissions at 1994 levels -- equivalent to 100% of emissions from all energy in the residential and transport sectors, or 40% of total emissions from the agriculture sector, the report said.
India has been making a concerted effort in the area of forestry for 20 years, and is one of the few developing countries where the forest cover has increased over that period, according to Mr. Ramesh.
At the same time, he acknowledged that climate change is of real and growing concern -- especially for India's economy. India is the world's fourth-largest emitter of carbon.
"In the last 60 years, 45% of the variation in our GDP growth has been because of variations in rainfall," he said. "We are therefore acutely conscious of what will happen to different parts of India because of climate change."
Mr. Ramesh reiterated India's longstanding position that the nation wouldn't accept emissions caps because that would limit economic growth, and that developed countries, which have much higher cumulative emissions, should take a more appropriate share of the responsibility. The U.S., for example, produces 20.9% of global carbon emissions, according to the 2007 Human Development Report put out by the United Nations Development Program.
He was also adamant that India wouldn't cut back on its consumption of coal, a big source of carbon emissions. "We have the third-largest reserve of coal," Mr. Ramesh said. "It would be foolish of us to give up on that option." Building a nuclear plant takes seven to 10 years, he pointed out.Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page A6
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