The Indian Express
Posted online: Wednesday, March 26, 2008 at 0101 hrs IST
When the last UNDP report was launched, it raised eyebrows as it suggested that developing countries like India take on emission cuts in addition to the action taken by the richer countries. United Nations Development Programme Administrator and Under Secretary General Kemal Dervis was in the capital recently. Speaking to Sonu Jain, he said that developed and developing countries had different responsibilities, but would have to strive together to prevent temperature rise of more than two degrees Celsius. However, he said, the rich countries should fund this move towards cleaner, efficient technologies for a country like India
• You seem to recommend cuts in emissions by India even as it grows. Is this possible?
There are many ways in which a country can embark on an energy efficient growth path. There are new technologies to capture carbon, that can be used when new coal power plants are being set up. There are technologies for renewables and India is already at a comparative advantage. These have long-term benefits but involve costs in the short term. The costs should be borne by developed countries. It is not a question of helping the poor, if emissions are reduced, everyone benefits.
• Is there any financial mechanism you have in mind of transferring funding from developed countries?
Subsidised investment through banks like the World Bank and Asian Development Bank is one such way. Cap and trade mechanism is another. There are different ways to apply technology if the basic principle is agreed upon — if there is more benefit, everyone contributes. So far, the record of developed countries has been poor. Except for CDM, of which India is a key beneficiary, there isn’t much to show.
• Why do you think India should cut emissions where there is a huge gap between what India emits and the most powerful emitters?
Unless all significant polluting countries make some contribution to climate mitigation, we are going to be in serious trouble. Broadly speaking, per capita emissions should be based on principles that reflect long-term equity. Countries have to find the approach that everyone has to agree to. There are right signals coming from India — the national action plan on climate change in June, significant steps taken towards energy efficiency and renewables. This shows India is looking into the problem. An international approach must be discussed. Manmohan Singh’s proposal of equality in per capita emission is a good starting point.
• What is the link between mitigation of climate change and poverty?
Climate change means greater water scarcity and problems for agriculture. Reports suggest yield as well as production may significantly fall. In a cyclone, while the rich can get away, the houses of the poor will get swept away. In those parts of the world where it is already hot, temperature increase means that there is more suffering.
• Do you think carbon markets can help address climate change?
Markets can take care of the problem, if properly regulated. They cannot exist by themselves. Right policies have to help create markets.
• What exactly would you like a country like India to do?
Developed countries should share most part of the burden. Like we said in the UNDP report, they should cut as much as 80 per cent by 2050. Developing countries cannot take cuts in some measure, geographic variation has to be kept in mind. We cannot expect Burkina Faso, Niger to cut emissions. The fact is even if developed countries cut by 80 per cent, and developing countries continue to emit, the world may run into trouble. Some participation is important to get into solving this problem.
• And what exactly do you mean by ‘participation’?
The end result has to be emissions not growing as rapidly as they are growing now. It has to be a mix of taxes plus targets, efficiency standards and building standards.
• What role can the UNDP play in climate-proofing all the developmental programmes?
We can make sure that impacts of all programmes are being measured in terms of carbon footprint. There has to be ‘carbon sensitivity’ built into the system. We do not finance projects like the World Bank but we look at the way a poverty alleviation scheme is approached.
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