Nuclear energy key to India’s role in climate change: US

By Arun Kumar, IANS

Washington : As the world discusses a new agreement to fight global warming, the US says nuclear energy will be a “key piece of the equation” for the future of India’s contribution to adjusting climate change.

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“There is no question that nuclear power has to be part of the solution,” a key advisor of President George Bush told reporters Wednesday at a White House briefing on the UN conference on climate change underway at Bali, Indonesia.

This was so because “it is the only energy source right now that can produce base-load affordably to millions of people in urban areas without any emissions,” said James Connaughton, chairman of US Environmental Quality when asked how the US-India civil nuclear deal will help.

“So if you want the biggest savings in CO2, for the best delivery of electricity that’s most reliable, nuclear power is all we have right now. Renewables are important; efficiency is very important; but they do not provide base-load power.

“And so, the work with India, for the future of India’s energy security, the future of India’s air pollution, air quality, and the future of India’s contribution to adjusting climate change, nuclear has got to be a key piece of the equation,” he said.

Describing China as “critical”, Connaughton said, “China’s emissions probably already exceed those of the United States. If not, they will soon. And there’s no question that by 2020, they will vastly exceed the United States.”

“Countries such as India, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, heavy fossil fuel-using countries, they need to be part of the equation, too,” he said noting, “within the coming decades, most of the growth in greenhouse gases is going to come from the big developing countries.”

“We have historic responsibility to take care of what we are now doing. But if we want to truly effect the long-term temperature trend, we can’t afford for the major developing countries to wait. So we need strategies.”

The Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate launched by Bush was the first multilateral group that included India and China, and the newly OECD economy of South Korea, in a shared agenda on sectoral efforts to reduce greenhouse gases in the major energy sectors, he said.

That has been the catalyst for the major economies process initiated by Bush, Connaughton said outlining the US stand on the issue in the context of Bali meetings to work out a new UN Franework Convention on Climate Change after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.

Washington was hoping to convene another meeting of the major economies, including India and China after the conclusion of Bali meetings as Bush considers energy security and climate change as “two of the greatest challenges of our time,” he said.

Asked to comment on Senator John Warner’s remark that “China and India will simply hide behind America’s skirts of inaction,” if the US didn’t take the lead, Connaughton said, the US “is already leading in a substantial way.”

It had undertaken a wide range of programmes that equal or exceed much of what’s being done in the rest of the world, he said.

“There’s a very strong commitment here,” added Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky with the US contributing over the last five to six years some $37 billion to the process.

Noting that many of the developing countries like India and China have particularly talked about access to energy and growing their economies, she said, “These initiatives and these monies have been devoted particularly not only to science research, but to the development of technologies, which is key.”