Heat is on

 Four days ahead of the Copenhagen climate summit, India has announced that it will voluntarily reduce carbon emission intensity on 2005 levels by 20-25 per cent by 2010.

India, which, had hitherto refused to quantify its commitment to cutting carbon emissions has for the first time spelt out a figure  to address the concerns. If in the past its commitment to reduce carbon emissions was unclear and seemed airy, the statement clarifies what India is willing to do. It has sent out a strong signal that it is serious about taking action. Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh has indicated that if the agreement coming out of Copenhagen is equitable and the rich would provide required financial and technical help, India was willing to go even further. He has clarified that the targets are not legally binding but a voluntary, domestic commitment. He has said that the reduction of carbon emission intensity will be achieved by using clean coal technology in power stations, improved emissions targets and better building standards. India’s announcement follows those by China and the United States. China, which is the world’s biggest polluter, has said it would cut carbon emission intensity in 2020 by 40-45 per cent from 2005 levels, while the US, the second largest polluter, offered to cut by 17 per cent in the same period and Brazil by 38-42 per cent.

Some have pointed out that India’s announcement has come under international pressure. With China, Indonesia, Brazil, South Africa and other peer group countries coming out with figures, it was compelled to do the same. Experts have pointed out that the voluntary cuts approach adopted by several countries, including India, could work to the US favour. Washington is opposed to legally binding commitments and prefers voluntary targets. It is said that India’s announcement on a voluntary emission cut could have come at the US behest. Will the US use this escape route to avoid doing a deal at Copenhagen?

With all the main players in the developing world having quantified their commitment, the ball is now in the court of the developed countries. They are under pressure to show how far they will go. India and China have turned up the heat. Can the developed world muster the political will to respond positively? The success of the Copenhagen summit depends on them stepping up their financial and technical support to help developing countries make the transition to clear technologies.

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