Though India’s per capita emission is low when compared to that of developed nations, it is among the top polluters of the world. The UN report on climate change sets 80 per cent reduction targets for developed countries and 20 per cent for developing countries like India and China by 2050. Sounds fair? But here is why India doesn’t think so:
l The country with 17 per cent of the world population emits only 4 per cent of global greenhouse gases. The government's stand is that climate change is an excuse by the West to suppress the nation's economic boom.
l India's position is that it will not compromise on its 8 per cent economic growth to arrest global warming, arguing the industrialised West are the historical polluters and they must make the first move.
l India—whose population is predicted to reach 1.5 bn by 2050—must be allowed to pollute on a per capita basis equally with the West.
l At present, the average American citizen accounts for more than 15 times the carbon emissions of the average Indian, the average Briton seven times. India's emissions are predicted to surpass those of the US in 30 years.
l Montek Singh Ahluwalia, deputy chairman of India's Planning Commission, attacked the UN report, calling it “unfair” and “fundamentally misconceived”.
The Other view
l The argument is that the climate change threat is real and India can’t wait for the West to act. India, they say, must not hide behind its vast population
l By 2030, India will have higher emission rates than China and the US.
l India has not drawn up a blueprint to tackle climate change, probably the only country not to have one. The country could soon find itself top of CO2 emission chart.
l National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC), India’s largest public sector power company, is the third highest polluter in its category in the world. Electricity production in India is carbon intensive, emitting more then twice as much CO2 per kilowatt-hour than in the EU.
l Climate change will affect the poor countries, not the rich. India, with 800 million poor people, will be among the hardest hit.
l India’s automobile emission norms are obsolete—the country is at least10 years behind Europe. The diesel used in automobiles has one of the highest sulphur content in the world.
l The highest income group in India, constituting one per cent of the population, emits four-and-a-half times as much CO2 as the lowest income group.
l Wealthy, less populous countries in the North are very likely to suffer fewer devastating blows to their economies; they may actually benefit with extended growing seasons. But India and other South Asian nations will suffer if action is not taken now.
l Changes to India’s annual monsoon are expected to result in severe droughts and intense flooding.
Scientists predict that by the end of the century, the country will experience a temperature increase of 3 to 5 degree Celsius and a 20 per cent rise in summer monsoon rain.
l The IPCC says a population of 1.5 billion to 3.5 billion could face the risk of being afflicted by dengue by 2080 as a result of global warming. Besides, worldwide it is estimated that an additional 220 to 400 million people could be exposed to malaria.
l Long-term damage to India’s water cycle. The livelihood of a vast population in India depends on agriculture, forestry, wetlands and fisheries and land use in these areas is strongly influenced by water-based ecosystems that depend on monsoon rains.
l Sea levels will rise by at least 40 cm by 2100, inundating vast areas on the coastline, including some of the most densely populated cities whose populations will be forced to migrate inland or build dykes
l Crop productivity will fall, especially in non-irrigated land, as temperatures rise for all of South Asia by as much as 1.2 degrees Celsius on average by 2040, and even greater crop loss—of over 25 per cent—as temperatures rise to up to 5.4 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.
l Mortality due to heat-related deaths will climb, with the poor, the elderly and daily wage earners and agricultural workers suffering a rise in heat-related deaths
l Huge areas of Bangladesh will go underwater and environmental refugees will flock to the Indian border, exacerbating an already tense situation not only in the states contiguous to Bangladesh but in cities as far off as Mumbai and Delhi.
The Kyoto pact, which was rejected by the United States, commits three dozen industrial countries that signed on to cut emissions by an average of 5 per cent below 1990 levels in the next five years. One of the reasons Washington did not sign on was because the pact did not set targets for fast-developing countries like China and India. The US will come up with its own plan to cut global-warming gases by mid-2008, and won’t commit to mandatory caps at the UN climate conference in Bali, Indonesia. The United States is the only major industrial country to have rejected the 1997 Kyoto pact.
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