Eyes on India at London climate talks

By Dipankar De Sarkar, IANS,

London : Speculation surrounded India’s position as representatives of the world’s leading economies began a second day’s meeting here Monday in a bid to break a logjam in global climate change talks.

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The Major Economies Forum (MEF) met amid reports of a radical move by Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh to soften India’s traditionally hardline position, suggesting New Delhi abandon its G-77 developing country allies in favour of the G20 group of industrialised nations.

The positions of India, China and the US top the agenda at the talks, which are aimed at breaking a stalemate in the runup to a crucial climate change summit in Copenhagen Dec 7-18. The Indian team is being led by the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy on Climate Change Shyam Saran, who stuck to India’s traditional position at the recent Bangkok meet to prepare for the summit.

Host Britain is keen to break the deadlock over US insistence that India and China undertake internationally-binding caps on their carbon emissions and an equally strong demand by developing countries that the US lead by example.

The suggestions by Jairam Ramesh, who was described by British Climate Change Minister Ed Miliband last week as an “incredibly visionary and imaginative person”, may constitute a game-changing plan after years of fruitless talks.

But critics warned accepting binding cuts at this stage of industrial development may result in lowering India’s economic growth rate, which in turn could damage efforts to cut poverty.

The MEF, which brings together 17 of the world’s biggest carbon-emitting countries, was set to be told by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown Monday that effects of climate change had brought the world to the brink of “catastrophe”.

“Leaders must engage directly to break the impasse. We cannot compromise with the Earth,” Brown will tell the meeting, his office said.

“We cannot compromise with the catastrophe of unchecked climate change; so we must compromise with one another.”

The MEF comprises Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, Britain, and United States, who together account for about 90 percent of global emissions of harmful greenhouse gases.