Thursday, October 22, 2009

No trade barriers in climate talks please, says Indian official

Krishnan, Murali (IANS, New Delhi)

While India is positioning itself as a proactive player in the climate change discourse, saying it is part of the solution, the real concern within industry and government is that negotiations should not be used to erect barriers to free trade and investment, India’s special envoy for climate change Shyam Saran has said.

“We have already put forward our viewpoint at the negotiations saying that any such move will be contrary to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and will also not be WTO compliant”, Saran told IANS in an interview.

“We are very much alive to this danger and we along with other developing countries are fighting this kind of tendency within the negotiations but the danger is certainly there.”

India has argued that trade issues are distinct from the joint response to the extraordinary global challenge posed by climate change.

However, fears have been heightened after the Waxman Markey climate change legislation, currently before the United States Senate, that seeks to impose trade penalties on countries that do not commit to specific action against greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Saran also noted that India has in recent negotiations expressed keenness that developed countries create a global mechanism through which existing technologies that can make a significant change in meeting challenges are diffused as rapidly and widely as possible.

“We have put forth the proposition that if climate change is a global challenge and is an elemental threat to humanity and if there are existing technologies which can make a significant impact in meeting the challenge, then is it not worthwhile to create a global mechanism through which these technologies be diffused rapidly?” queried Saran.

“Secondly, you will also need to have some kind of global mechanism to create capacities in developing countries so that they can assimilate these technologies. It is an important proposition put forward by India.”

Developed countries, however, contend that governments do not have the intellectual property rights (IPRs) to these technologies and would also harm the interests of innovators.

“We believe this is not a very valid argument”, says Saran. “Yes, IPRs may be with the private sector in these countries but you can create a global mechanism through which we can purchase these IPRs or lease or license them. Let’s make them available as public goods to developing countries. It is not as if these obstacles cannot be surmounted. There is a way around it.”

The official said that India needs such transformational technologies for the future, as this is essential if the country is to make an accelerated shift from its current reliance on carbon based fuels to production and consumption which is essentially based on renewable energy sources or cleaner sources of energy such as nuclear energy.

“The challenge really lies in what is the kind of mechanism we create. Eventually we have to work out the practical ways we can implement these ideas. This is what we are working on in the course of the negotiations.”

Marking a significant shift in its stand ahead of the Copenhagen meeting in December, India has for the first time said a reduction of its GHG emissions is as much a part of its climate change strategy as adaptation efforts, and that it is ready to quantify the emission cuts it is prepared to take over a period of time.

Stopping short of the measures taking the form of legally binding targets, a slew of measures were announced by Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh in September, including an increase in the share of renewables, stricter fuel efficiency norms, mandatory building codes, cuts in energy intensity, and efficient coal-based plants.