India — Dealmaker or Dealbreaker?

The Armchair Critic
The Armchair Critic
3 min readApr 29, 2018


20 November 2009 @ 2:49 am

If you’ve been following the lead up to the climate change conference at Copenhagen this December, (which has been on everyone’s lips here at SNRE), you might have noticed that there have been a series of talks between India and a few developed countries (UK, a few Scandinavian countries) and also with other developing countries (Maldives and China last month). It was after the Maldives talk that Jairam Ramesh, India’s environmental minister, wrote a “confidential” letter to the PM saying that India should move away from the G77’s position which was that :

developing countries should not have a limit on Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and that they “are only expected to take actions they deem possible under national circumstances and then too only if these are `enabled’ by finance and technology”.

This is what was agreed to during Kyoto Summit and in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (Bali Summit revision).

Australia and the US are of the opinion that all countries should have some limit or the other based on their level of development. India, China and other members of the G24 (a subset of G77 comprising the more developed among the 77) have always maintained the position that since the developed countries (OECD) caused the problem, they should first commit to cuts in GHG emissions before they expect developing countries to do so. Many European countries seem to support India’s stand in this issue.

Last month, Jairam Ramesh wrote (confidentially, he thought!) to the Prime Minister that to bring US and the other developed nations on board climate change negotiations, India needed to take a more pragmatic stand. He said that India should commit itself to voluntary cuts in GHG emissions if that’s what is required for global consensus. Most people outside India saw that as a brave and positive move. But back home, he was attacked (by) left, right and centre.

I am not yet sure of what is the right position for India to take. On one hand, it will probably cripple India’s industries if emissions are capped. And since India is already selling a lot of carbon credits to foreign firms, will we have enough credits to run our industries, especially the coal fired power plants?

On the other, India is one of the countries that will get most affected by an increase in GHG emissions, a resultant increase in temperature and thus a sea level rise and changed weather patterns (disrupted monsoons?). Also the fact that a large part of Bangladesh could go under water could mean an increased influx of refugees too.

In other words, India tends to lose whatever it does. It would not be easy to compare the losses in each case as one would involve losing lives and repatriating affected people while the other would involve monetary losses to industries in employing technology to reduce emissions.

Meanwhile it continues to be used as a political tool by people who seem to have no idea about what they’re saying. Bittu Sahgal and Malini Mehra present an excellent analysis of the whole issue here.

[A couple of days back I came across an article titled “Cooperate on Climate Change, says PM”. Funnily the cooperation he was asking for was between Jairam Ramesh and Shyam Saran, India’s Special Envoy for Climate Change negotiations in deciding what India’s stand at Copenhagen would be.]

Originally published at