Lawrence Solomon, Financial Post
Published: Saturday, July 26, 2008
India loves the UN's climate change policies and so does India's representative at the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Rajendra Pachauri.
Why the love-in? The Indian government's new "National Action Plan on Climate Change," which Pachauri helped craft, plainly explains why: The UN formally establishes that global warming is a matter of secondary importance to India, allowing the world's largest democracy to pursue its own best interests.
As the National Action Plan unapologetically puts it, the UN's climate change convention "recognizes that 'economic and social development and poverty eradication are the first and overriding priorities of the developing country parties.' Thus, developing countries are not required to divert resources from development priorities by implementing projects involving incremental costs."
And India doesn't. Throughout its National Action Plan, India demonstrates that it will divert precious little of its scarce resources to solving the climate crisis. Where greenhouse gases will be curbed -- for example, by aggressively building hydro dams or modernizing industry -- the curbs will be a by-product of India's national security concerns or economic development plans.
The UN's climate change convention is even better than that -- it's a money-maker for India and a lever with which to obtain western technology. As the Action Plan makes clear, there's only one condition under which India need spend a rupee to help curb global warming "--(if) these incremental costs are borne by developed countries and the needed technologies are transferred."
Apart from wanting to develop, and wanting transfers of western wealth, the Indian government has one other reason for putting global warming on the back burner -- although it agrees that climate change may one day pose a threat, the National Action Plan states boldly that man-made global warming may not exist, and that if it does exist, its existence may be of no account to India.
"No firm link between the changes described below and warming due to anthropogenic climate change has yet been established," the report states matter-offactly, before proceeding to list the areas in which the science is not settled.
Parts of India have warmed, the Action Plan explains, and parts have cooled. Monsoon rains have increased in some areas and decreased in others. There have been no marked long-term trends in droughts or floods. Some regions have had a greater and others a lesser frequency of severe storms. Neither do the Himalayan glaciers demonstrate any consistent trend.
The upshot? With climate change such an ephemeral threat, why spend money on this possible non-event. Much better to focus on maximizing wealth and health.
The prescription? Grow the economy as fast as one billion people can possibly manage by building hundreds of new coal-fired power plants -- India is planning a five-fold increase by 2030,making it the world's third largest CO2 producer.
This National Action Plan is no ordinary report from a low-level government bureaucracy. It was commissioned last year by the Prime Minister's Council on Climate Change, chaired by the Prime Minister of India himself, and has the imprimatur of both the Government of India and the Prime Minister's council.
Neither is Rajendra Pachauri an ordinary government representative at the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. He is its chairman, in effect the world's most senior climate change official. As such, he has been a vehement defender of the UN Panel's position, brooking no dissent from the view that time was short if the planet was to avert climate change catastrophe. As one example, when the mild-mannered Danish statistician Bjorn Lomberg, a believer in man-made climate change, concluded that climate change was unlikely to cause catastrophe, Pachauri likened him to Hitler.
How did Pachauri react when his own prime minister, and the government that he represents at the UN, not only down-played man-made global warming but positively asserted that there is no proof for it?
He vehemently endorsed his Prime Minister's National Action Plan. "We are an expanding economy. How can we levy a cap [on CO2 emissions] when millions are living with deprivation?," he told the Indian press. The National Action Plan should be implemented and the west should "get off the back of India."
In India, growth trumps sustainability