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Shyam Saran

01 July 2008
Shyam Saran

Shyam Saran is Special Envoy to the Prime Minister of India on climate change issues. As former Foreign Secretary and Ambassador to Nepal, Indonesia and Myanmar, Mr. Saran brings extensive experience in international negotiations and diplomacy. The °Climate Group spoke with him in the lead-up to the 2008 G8 Summit - at which climate change will be a contentious and crucial issue. One of the key questions facing Mr. Saran, and all negotiators, is how to develop a fair, equitable and effective global deal on climate change which can be agreed at the UNFCC meeting in Copenhagen in December 2009.

What do you think is needed for a successful outcome at Copenhagen? What key pieces need to come together for agreement?

The key pieces are spelt out in the Bali Action Plan itself. We need to agree on a Long Term Vision and on practical steps to enhance the implementation of the 4 pillars of the Bali Action Plan. These are mitigation, adaptation, supported by finance and technology, which must be part of a comprehensive package. Furthermore, a successful outcome must be based on equity, as enshrined in the UNFCCC principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities and relative capabilities".

India's per capita emissions fall well below the global average. What is the best way to create an international agreement that will enable India to decouple future economic growth from emissions growth? What role will India play in reaching such an agreement? What role will the international community play?

The Prime Minister of India has already declared that as India pursues sustainable development, its per capita GHG emissions will at no point exceed those of the developed countries. This is a major contribution by India to the global effort to deal with climate change. It also reflects our view that eventually there has to be a global convergence of per capita GHG emissions. This is the only equitable basis on which existing atmospheric space can be shared. India's position in this regard has drawn a positive response from countries like the UK, France and Germany. We are prepared to work with the international community to give this convergence principle a practical shape.

To be successful, international negotiations must arrive at a climate agreement that is both effective and equitable. How can countries achieve similar effectiveness and equity within their internal climate policies and strategies?

All countries must pursue ecologically sustainable policies at home, though their circumstances may be different. This means sustainable patterns of both production and consumption, including sustainable lifestyles. For example, India recycles over 70 per cent of its waste, while this figure is only 30 per cent in the US and less than 50 per cent in Germany. There must also be a recognition that there is a difference between what I would call lifestyle emissions and survival emissions and these cannot be equated. If we provide basic energy services to the rural poor in India, that will inevitably result in higher emissions. But this cannot be equated to higher emissions as a result of high speed limits, or no speed limits at all, on highways in Europe.

How will India reconcile the need for both adaptation and mitigation?

When we talk of sustainable development, it implies both adaptation to climate change that has already taken place and is expected to take place in the foreseeable future. It also includes mitigation through the adoption of a strategy that, over time, moves the country to a growth pattern progressively less reliant on fossil fuels. We believe that development is the best form of adaptation. It is only with higher incomes that it becomes possible to increase resilience to changes in climatic patterns and unexpected climatic events. In agriculture, this includes the development of drought resistant crops, arid zone agricultural practices and shorter growth cycles. Therefore, adaptation is being built into our overall development strategies. This will go hand in hand with mitigation-related measures, such as the promotion of renewable energy sources and increased energy efficiency.

As a net importer of primary energy, how will India balance the dual imperatives of climate security and energy security?

In a world of rising prices of oil and natural gas, it is becoming increasingly apparent that if India does not wish energy to become a constraint on its ability to deliver high levels of growth, (which is also a must for successful adaptation), then it must make a deliberate and graduated shift to renewable energy. In the meantime, it must conserve energy and increase efficiency in energy-intensive sectors. Thus, promoting energy security will, as a consequence, deliver Climate Change benefits as well. This is the strategy which underlies India's National Action Plan on Climate Change due to be released shortly.

An international climate agreement could establish flows of funds to developing economies which would fast exceed ODA flows. What international institutions are needed to ensure these funds are effective, and that they reach the intended targets?

It is our view that these financing mechanisms are best placed within the multilateral UNFCCC regime, so that they are managed by the State Parties themselves. This will ensure that the use of the funds is not donor-driven, reflecting the priorities of the developed countries alone. The funds should be utilized in accordance with the priorities and requirements of the developing countries. Concessional lending under the World Bank, for example, cannot be a substitute for a financing mechanism under the UNFCCC itself.

What big opportunities exist for India in the move to a low carbon economy?

Indian business and industry is already ahead of the curve in recognizing and exploiting the opportunities inherent in the shift to a more climate-friendly growth strategy. India is one of the leaders in wind energy and there will be a renewed focus on solar energy applications in the Climate Change Plan. Improving energy efficiency in energy intensive sectors such as power, steel and cement, offers major opportunities to Energy Service Companies. An ADB Study has estimated the current market in India for ESCOs alone at about US $3.5 billion.

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