India Makes Dramatic Emissions Policy Shift

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mumbaistreetArticle by Mridul Chadha appearing courtesy of Celsias.

In yet more positive news for international climate negotiations, India has announced that it is open to international review and reporting of its domestic mitigation measures.

The step is a colossal change in India’s policy and is seen as a major boost to the chances of successful negotiation of new climate deal at Copenhagen this December.

India has long maintained that it is bound to report results of only internationally funded clean energy projects. The issue of reporting and accounting of carbon emission reduced has been a contentious issue for a long time.

Deals on international funding have fallen apart in the past as developing countries refused approval to demands of developed nations for increased accountability in reporting emission reductions achieved by projects funded through international funding mechanism like the CDM.

Dramatic Policy Shift

Earlier this month, the Indian environment minister made another positive announcement regarding India’s intentions to have voluntary and non-binding emission reduction targets.

The minister announced that a bill prescribing carbon emission limits for the top five polluting industries could be introduced in the Parliament during the winter session starting November 22.

The bill would empower Parliament to stop flow of funding for mitigation measures if they are economically unsound or put extra burden on the common people. In this way the Indian government would be able to secure the economic interests while reducing carbon output.

The dramatic change in India’s stance came after US-China climate negotiations resulted in China agreeing in principle to voluntary emission reductions, improving energy efficiency and expansion of renewable energy infrastructure.

China was involved in bilateral talks with the United States for a year and with the Obama administration taking charge the negotiations got fast tracked. Deals on technology exchange, pertaining to green buildings and improving energy efficiency, were signed during Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton’s visit to China.

With China breaking away from the traditional negotiating stance of developing countries, weakness in the developing countries’ camp became more evident. The issue was raised in Indian Parliament where the environment minister assured the House he’d personally meet his counterparts in China, South Africa, Brazil and Mexico to renew their negotiation stance.

The new positions on international scrutiny of mitigation measures will not only improve India’s credibility but also help it get additional funding for new clean energy projects and help developed countries offset their own carbon emissions.

Pressure Tactics?

Developing countries have announced a number of mitigation measures which they were opposed to in the past. Many experts see them as attempts to put pressure on developed countries, specifically the United States, to make them agree to bold emission reduction targets and increased financial support.

Under the National Solar Mission, the Indian government aims at solar capacity of 20 gigawatts by the year 2030. This is a highly ambitious and seemingly unrealistic goal given that no details of funding have been provided in the plan.

These measures by China and India could put pressure on the US Congress as it considers the climate change bill.

In the past developed countries have accused the developing countries of dragging their feet over issues of reducing carbon emissions. However, now that they have announced intentions to adopt economically sensitive voluntary emission reduction targets the spotlight has returned to developed countries.

The Indian environment minister once challenged the US government to adopt bold emissions reduction targets and see India respond in kind but it’s the developing countries which have taken the higher ground and now all eyes are on the US to see if it will come up with appropriate emission targets and a deal on technological and financial support that will satisfy developing nations.

[photo credit: Flickr]

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