Green House Gas Emissions – Protest from Developing Countries


Binding cuts in Gas emissions- Reasons for Protest

The developed countries have done the bulk of the damage to the environment over the last couple of centuries, raising the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, leading to global warming, melting glaciers, rising sea levels, change in weather patterns etc.. Therefore, the bulk of the responsibility for arresting, reversing and mitigating the damage must also fall on them. Developing countries like India feel that rich nations having spoiled the atmosphere by emission of gases like CO2 thus getting richer in the earlier time now want poorer and developing countries to cut its green house gas emissions without owning their mistake and take greater part in financing the poor and developing nations.

This emission control may hamper the developing countries to spend more than the present normal expenses which they cannot fund due to their under-development. The storage of gas emitted which is one of the form of controlling gas emission is definitely beyond the reach of poorer and developing countries due to enormous cost involved. So India and China are demanding only voluntary cuts in emission intensity and do not like any binding commitments from international community at Copenhagen summit.

India is about 17% of humanity, but accounts for less than 5% of total greenhouse gas emissions. In other words, the average quantity of greenhouse gas emissions per head for the world is 3.4 times the per head emissions in India. American emission levels are some 18 times India’s. When the Indian economy grows fast, India’s emission levels will grow. Any attempt to cap India’s emissions will mean restricting India’s ability to grow and that is not acceptable as per economic experts and politicians in India. But this type of argument will not hold good in totality and India also should participate in controlling emissions, of course, in lesser % as compared to developed ones when it is growing .

It is just like profitable industries should contribute to the society by way of doing some welfare schemes in the country where they are located. In the same vein, India also should contribute something within its capacity to retain the ozone layer intact when it grows globally. The impact of climate change hits the poor the worst, whether it is drought or floods, rising sea levels or reduced crop yields. So attempts to fight climate change help the poor the best. . Developing economies like India are just beginning to take baby steps on the global stage and industry and entrepreneurship will have to go a long way. Millions of households in India still have to depend on firewood and kerosene to light up their homes even as scores of Indians die every year for want of basic health amenities.

Accepting the above logic, Minister Jairam Ramesh has told Indian Parliament that India can safely undertake/attempt to reduce the emission intensity of growth by 20%-25% by 2020. Jairam Ramesh also told Parliament about our plan to have 22,000 MW of solar energy by 2022, the policy to have clean coal technologies for power generation, fuel efficiency norms for all vehicles, green building codes.

Emission intensity refers to the amount of emissions required to generate one unit of output. In other words, what India proposes is that the amount of emissions required to produce one unit of GDP in 2020 would be a quarter less than the amount of emissions that was required to produce one unit of GDP in 2005. This, of course, provides for significant rise in absolute levels of emissions. The way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is to raise energy efficiency, raise the efficiency of converting heat generated by burning fuels into electricity (thermal efficiency), substitution of fuels that generate more greenhouse gases with fuels that generate less, improve logistics, design buildings and towns to function with less energy using solar heaters. The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can be reduced by growing more trees and plants, which absorb the gas to make food.

Developing Countries like India can accept binding target for emission intensity provided the advanced countries like USA and Europe agree to steep cuts in their absolute levels of emissions and also provide funds and technology to countries like India to achieve their targets. The stakes for the Copenhagen summit have been building up over the last few weeks, but with China declaring a voluntary deduction in carbon intensity by 40-45% by 2020, the pressure on reluctant players like the US to act and commit just got higher.

The Chinese move to voluntarily reduce its carbon intensity days ahead of the summit in Denmark has large implications. One, it will be difficult for developed countries like the US to oppose commitments to reduce greenhouse gases. Close on the heels of China, India has announced its decision to set a target of cutting down its carbon intensity by 20-25%, domestically. This is achievable even with a GDP growth of 8-9% with the application of right technologies and fiscal measures that encourage energy efficiency. The crucial differentiator in the stand taken by China and India is that of setting an individual target that is not bound by an international or external cap. More importantly, India has made it clear that it is not ready to subject itself to international verification. The targets set by the country will be in accordance to its resources and social and economic priorities.

Lifestyles in developed countries still remain largely unchanged as the wealthy continue to live in large villas, drive around in gas-guzzling SUVs and use energy-intensive equipment for daily household chores. India may be the world’s sixth-biggest greenhouse gas producer, but it has a per-head emission of just 2 tonnes of carbon dioxide — 66th in the world — whereas US is the fifth in the world with a per-head emission of 20 tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent. This is precisely 10 times that of India, which is expected to have the same caps on emissions as developed countries like the US. This is totally against the principle of ‘Equality’. The rich nations must cut their greenhouse gases at least 40%  by 2020.

South Africa added new impetus saying that it would cut is carbon emissions to 34% by 2020 if rich countries provided financial and technical help. Now there is competition among  developing nations and poor nations for demanding compensation for taking steps to reduce gas emissions. The United Nations is also insisting on developed nations to provide immediately $10 billion – a – year  funds for helping the poor nations to cope up with targets. The present aim of Copenhagen pact to achieve a politically binding deal and a new deadline is set up to 2010 for working out legal details.

Interesting Statistical Details about Greenhouse gases emission:

China is the largest producer of emissions in the world, according to the latest ranking from risk management consultancy Maplecroft.

China emits about 6,018 million tons of greenhouse gases per year

The United States is a close second with 5,903 tons of greenhouse gases released each year

Russia produces about 1,704 tons per year

India releases about 1,293 tons per year

Japan produces 1,247 tons per year

Germany produces about 858 tons of greenhouse gases per year

Canada produces 614 tons per year

Britain produces 586 tons per year

South Korea produces 514 tons per year

Iran produces 471 tons of greenhouse gases per year

C R Venkata Ramani

References:

Some excerpts from Economic times of India dt Nov 2009.

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