Things get a bit heated on climate change
July 20, 2009 | PRAKASH SINGH/AFP/Getty Images Yesterday, things got a bit heated between Secretary Clinton and Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh when it came to climate change. As the two toured a “green” building near New Delhi while dozens of cameras rolled, Ramesh said, “India’s position, let me be clear, is that we ...
Yesterday, things got a bit heated between Secretary Clinton and Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh when it came to climate change.
As the two toured a “green” building near New Delhi while dozens of cameras rolled, Ramesh said, “India’s position, let me be clear, is that we are simply not in the position to take legally binding emissions targets.”
Clinton responded: “No one wants to in any way stall or undermine the economic growth that is necessary to lift millions more out of poverty. …We also believe that there is a way to eradicate poverty and develop sustainability that will lower significantly the carbon footprint.”
After the tour, the U.S. and Indian delegations had a closed-door meeting that once again began with tension. Ramesh delivered a blunt four-minute opening statement declaring, “There is simply no case for the pressure that we, who have among the lowest emissions per capita, face to actually reduce emissions.”
Clinton countered that the per capita logic “loses force” as developing countries quickly become the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases.
Ramesh’s rejoinder: “We look upon you suspiciously because you have not fulfilled what [developed countries] pledged to fulfill,” referring to it as a “crisis of credibility.”
After the meeting, though, Clinton announced that the discussion was “very fruitful” and pointed out, “We have many more areas of agreement than perhaps had been appreciated.”
Climate change is definitely a sensitive issue for large and rapidly developing countries such as India and China. It can look hypocritical for rich countries to demand that poor countries curb emissions when rich countries themselves pollute more per capita and historically increased their pollution levels as their people became wealthier.
Clinton said it’s possible to eliminate poverty and develop sustainably at the same time. I really hope these “green” technologies pull through to save the day. But even with green technologies and more environmental awareness, it’s gonna be tough. Last Friday, the first Tata Nano was delivered.
Photo: PRAKASH SINGH/AFP/Getty Images
Preeti Aroon was copy chief at Foreign Policy from 2009-2016 and was an assistant editor from 2007-2009. Twitter: @pjaroonFP
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