Jairam drops a bombshell, blasts a hole in India's negotiating stance

  • CSE lambasts minister’s support to “binding commitment for all countries under appropriate legal form”

  • India has always said its domestic mitigation actions are voluntary and not internationally binding. Minister’s statement contradicts this stand

  • Removes the distinction between developed and developing world

Related story: India stuns all at Cancun by opening up to binding emission commitments

Cancun, December 8, 2010: The penny has dropped. Today, at the ongoing 16th Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC in Cancun, India’s environment minister, Jairam Ramesh made a startling statement: “All countries, we believe, must take on binding commitments under appropriate legal form.” According to Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), this can only be construed as a complete departure from India’s traditional position in climate change negotiations.

Interestingly, the minister’s official printed speech did not contain this statement. The minister reportedly added it extempore as he delivered his speech.

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. Said Chandra Bhushan, deputy director, CSE: “This is most unfortunate and uncalled for. The minister’s statement opens another door for internationalising India’s domestic commitments.”

Giving in, step by calculated step
In a pre-CoP meeting in Mexico, Ramesh had taken a first step towards internationalising India’s domestic commitments by agreeing on International Consultation and Analysis (ICA) of domestic actions. He followed this up by putting the ICA proposal in front of the BASIC group and arguing for it – today, with the BASIC group’s broad agreement on the proposal, ICA has become a part of the negotiating text.

Now he has moved a step forward and, as his statement suggests, opened the doors for converting India’s domestic actions into international commitment. CSE believes that this is the beginning of the process which will lead to removal of distinctions between developing and developed countries, which is the cornerstone of the UNFCCC.

Industrialised or developed countries have a historical responsibility to cut emissions, since they have been emitting for several years. The developing world, on the other hand, needs the right to develop. This is the key premise that differentiates the two blocs from each other.

Ramesh claimed that he had been under tremendous pressure to come out with this statement. Remarked Chandra Bhushan: ”It is difficult to understand what kind of pressure might have forced the minister to buckle down in this manner. Haven’t Indian negotiators stood their ground all these years despite all the pressure?”

For more on this, just write to Chandra Bhushan at chandra@cseindia.org