India makes climate U-turn after opposition ire

Jairam accused of compromising countrys position at Cancun

India makes climate U-turn after opposition ire

Negotiators from nearly 200 countries are burning the midnight oil to finalise the outcome of the two-week conference, which on Thursday saw Ramesh’s call to all countries to take binding commitments under appropriate legal form.

Though the statement is considered an attempt to break the stalemate in the conference marred by differences on various issues, the Opposition and the green lobby back home have called it a “sell out” under American pressure.

The Opposition has accused the minister of making a unilateral statement exceeding the parliamentary mandate, alleging that Ramesh has deviated from the long-held Indian position that it will not accept any internationally legally binding emission cuts.

Explanation sought

On Friday, the BJP asked the prime minister to explain the “volte-face” by the UPA government, for which there was apparently a Cabinet approval.

“The BJP does not accept the altered position. It is against national interest. Our national greenhouse gas emissions are still very low and will grow as we further develop. We want the latest position to be reversed,” Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said.  The CPM politburo has described Ramesh’s stand as a blatant shift away from India’s stated position which goes against UPA’s assurances to Parliament that India will not accept binding commitments.

The statement cannot be seen as the minister’s individual opinion but should be taken as the view of the UPA government, the Left party said in a statement, adding that the Manmohan Singh government is only too willing to align with the US interests.

For his part, the prime minister has urged the parties not to read too much into Ramesh’s statement.

India has always maintained that its domestic mitigation actions (reduction in emissions intensity of the economy by 20-25 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020) are voluntary in nature and not binding international commitments.

“This is most unfortunate and uncalled for. The minister’s statement opens another door for internationalising India’s domestic commitments,” said Chandra Bhushan, deputy director at the Centre for Science and Environment.

Despite its firm stand not to accept any binding commitments imposed on developing countries, India in recent times has come under pressure from members of the BASIC group like Brazil and South Africa to accept some kind of legally-binding cuts.

Ramesh said there has been no shifting of the goal post and that he stood by India's position that it will not accept internationally binding cuts “at this stage” because he does not know the conditions that accompany them. He justified the “nuancing” of the Indian position, saying India is “not isolated”.

“There is no shift in the position, only nuancing,” he said, pointing out that India was trying to find room for “manoeuvre” due to increasing pressure from developing nations.
“We remain anchored in non-negotiable but we are expanding our options,” he said.

“All I said was that all countries must take binding commitments in appropriate legal form. This does not mean that India is taking on a legally binding agreement at this stage. That’s our position,” Ramesh said.

“Negotiations is all about flexibility, negotiations is all about seeing what is happening and responding creatively. I think frankly, I have not changed the goal post, I have nuanced our position. Our positions remains ‘let me say we will not accept a legally binding agreement at this stage’,” he told reporters.

Delegates from various countries expressed hope of a breakthrough in the conference following Ramesh’s statement.

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