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COMMENT: India's climate change agenda, post elections 2009

02 June 2009

By The Climate Group's India Director Preeti Malhotra & Advisor, V Raghuraman

In April this year, India held its 15th Lok Sabha Elections (House of the People, the directly elected Lower House of the Parliament of India) -the largest democratic election in the world (an electorate of 714 million voters). On 16 May, the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) conceded defeat, and acknowledged that they could not be the single largest party or a single largest alliance.

Dr Manmohan Singh (of the Indian National Congress led United Progressive Alliance-UPA) became the first Prime Minister of India since Jawaharlal Nehru in 1962 to win re-election after completing a full five-year term. The result not only meant defeat of the BJP led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), but it also brought out one of the worst performances by the Left Front (led by the Communist Party of India), who had been hoping to form a non-Congress, non-BJP government.

With a stable Government in New Delhi, India is likely to pursue along with G77 + China multilateral negotiations expecting an ambitious and equitable outcome at Copenhagen in accordance with common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.

India will reiterate its stand that the mandate of Copenhagen is to enhance long term co-operation on climate change under the Bali Action Plan with sufficient finance and technology transfer from developed to developing countries. Also, that the Copenhagen package must include global action on Adaptation in addition to action on GHG abatement and reduction.

The new Environment Minister, Jairam Ramesh, a Chemical Engineer from IIT Bombay has already set the ball rolling articulating his immediate priorities.

One of the three issues that Prime Minister Singh has asked him to address on a priority basis includes giving a leadership role to India in global negotiations on climate change without compromising on growth. The Minister is quoted in media reports that if India has to achieve 8-9 per cent growth rate, its energy consumption would increase by 6-7 per cent and coal would be a major resource. For this, India will have to focus on clean coal technology, better investment decisions and environmental mitigation measures.

The other immediate priority for the new Minister is to have a more 'business like, transparent and time bound regulatory system'. Having been the Minister of State for Power prior to taking on the Environment portfolio in the current government; the new Minister is likely to have a better understanding of the regulatory barriers to power projects. Capacity addition is the clear focus of the Power Minister for this Five Year Plan ending 2012.

The National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) launched by Prime Minister Singh in 2008 will now continue to define the national strategy to tackle climate change. With its eight missions; NAPCC is India's domestic plan for sustainable development; the specific projects under each mission with targets wherever possible. This is distinct from binding international commitments as India believes that subjecting national aspirational efforts to an international compliance regime may result in lower ambitions.

India is likely to roll out an ambitious Solar Mission Programme, the Energy Efficiency Trading Certificates and Renewable Energy Certificates under the Energy efficiency mission. These offer good promise for international cooperation and engagement. The proposal put up by India at the April Bonn deliberations of establishing Global Innovation Centers has met with appreciation.

There is no likelihood of any dramatic shift in India's stand in climate change negotiations; the NAPCC would continue to represent India's resolve to deal with the issue for which road maps are being evolved. It would expect developed countries to take on deep and significant cuts in emissions as fulfillment of their historic responsibility. It will seek recognition of India's statesmanship on the issue by putting a cap on its emissions by not allowing its per capita GHG emissions to exceed the average per capita emissions of the developed countries.

India is likely to get a stronger voice at Copenhagen with continuity in thinking and approach to multilateral negotiations post elections. Discussions with India presents a huge opportunity as India believes that investment in addressing Climate Change, especially in renewable energy, could create new industries, new jobs and spur technological innovation. Developed countries participation in enhancing the effectiveness of the efforts can count on India as a part of the solution.

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