China most important ally in climate talks: Minister


New Delhi: “India considers China its most important ally in Copenhagen negotiations,” Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh said here Friday.

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Negotiations for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) summit in Copenhagen this December have often been fractious, with developed and major developing countries like India and China often taking opposing stands on who should do more to combat global warming.

News that China and the US have signed a bilateral treaty to combat climate change has therefore dismayed a section of the Indian government negotiators at the climate talks.

But Ramesh dismissed such fears at a press conference. “There is nothing to worry about the China-US deal,” he said. “What countries do bilaterally has nothing to do with multilateral negotiations.”

The minister said he was going to Beijing in the last week of August to discuss the stand of developing countries in the run-up to the December summit. The visit will follow the next round of negotiations — to start in Bonn Aug 10 — for a deal in Copenhagen.

Ramesh said he was also going to go to Brazil and South Africa in an attempt to forge a common position of major developing countries in the climate talks.

“And this is quite apart from the bilateral agreements, which we may also have with the US,” he added. Ramesh had discussed the matter with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when she visited New Delhi last week.

India has consistently taken the position at global climate talks that it was in no position to take on a legal commitment to reduce or cap its emission of greenhouse gases (GHG), because it needed to expand energy use to develop, and because industrialised countries were responsible for almost all the GHG that is now warming up the earth.

Asked repeatedly if India had diluted this position by signing a Major Economies’ Forum declaration earlier this month which said it would be a good idea to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius, Ramesh said he did not think so, and that two degrees was only an “aspirational goal”, not something around which negotiations would be held.

The issue has generated much heat in parliament too, forcing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to issue a similar clarification earlier this week.

Ramesh released a booklet that puts together the submissions that India has recently made to the UNFCCC as its contribution to the negotiation process, and said the country was primarily “seeking to influence the outcome” in Copenhagen in areas of getting money for afforestation and for taking other steps to combat climate change, as well as cheap transfer of green technologies.

The minister said in his talks with Clinton, he had “requested US support for these proposals” and reacted to criticism of India’s position on climate talks in some sections of the western media by saying: “We are not defensive, we are not obstructionist, we want an international agreement in Copenhagen”.