Thursday, December 14, 2006

"India, Development and the Environment": same old problem

Below is the classic "globalisation and the environment" story that encapsulates some of the issues that will keep politicans in drawn out meetings for many years to come.

This same story is repeated across the world as the forces of globalisation continue to mold and shape the industrial landscape.

This article makes clear the impasse that is being reached between developing and developed countries. It should also be clear that as long as the US continues with its current environmental policies and intransigence regarding Kyoto and other multinational environmental agreements, that developing nations are not being set a good example.

In my opinion the title of this article is rather provocative and unhelpful and does not appear to accurately represent the Indian position - perhaps it just makes a good headline.

India Says Its Carbon Emissions Not Harming World

NEW DELHI -- India, considered to be one of the world's top polluters, said on Thursday that it was not doing any harm to the world's atmosphere despite increasing emissions of greenhouse gases.

Is this really what they said?
Experts say unchecked greenhouse gas emissions could see global temperatures rise by 2-3 degrees Celsius in the next 50 years and could result in devastating climate change.

Standard statistics trotted out.
While India is not required under the Kyoto Protocol to cut emission levels at this stage, experts say its emissions are rising due to its rapid economic development and could become a significant contributor to global warming.

Who are the so-called experts and what is the definition of "significant"? Clearly, any rapidly developing and industrialising country will be using increased levels of energy. Whilst, by definition it "could" become a significant contributer the question is whether it is now. Does "significant" in this context refer to a "relative" or "absolute" concept?
But the country's environment minister told parliament India's emissions were insignificant compared to those of richer nations which should take the lead in curbing greenhouse gases.

"India is very little in terms of emissions and we are not the biggest polluters when compared to the developed nations," said Environment Minister A. Raja.

"We are not doing any harm to the entire world. We are, in spite of the developmental activities taking place in this country, very categorical that our emissions are below three percent which is within limits," he said, referring to India's percentage contribution to total global emissions.

Again, we need to define what we mean by significant. So India's total emissions are below 3%. India has been growing dramatically in recent years yet remains a relatively low emitter per head. See below.
According to a World Bank survey in May, carbon emissions from two of the world's fastest growing economies, China and India, rose steeply over the past decade.

India increased carbon dioxide emissions by 33 percent between 1992 and 2002, said the bank's "Little Green Data Book," a survey of mankind's global environmental impact.

New Delhi says it must use more energy to lift its population from poverty and that its per-capita emissions are a fraction of those in rich states which have burnt fossil fuels unhindered since the Industrial Revolution.

This is a valid point - who are we to impose restrictions on a country's right to alleviate the poverty of its citizens not to mention the fact that India's growth in partly on the back of following western policy persciptions by way of liberalising their economy and indeed, embracing "globalisation". Moreover, such growth will result in an increased demand for Western products and create a new, potentially large, market for our products - exactly what we wanted to happen to boost our own domestic economies.

According to figures from the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, the top five sources of greenhouse gases were the United States, China, Russia, India and Japan.

The United States' per-capita greenhouse emissions were 24 tonnes based on 2004 data. China was 4 tonnes and India 2 tonnes based on 2000 data, the secretariat said.

India's annual emissions were growing about 2-3 percent, said Srinivas.

So of course, India should do what it can but these per capita figures do need to be considered when deciding where the pain of increased abatement costs must fall.
The Indian subcontinent is expected to be one of the most seriously affected regions in the world by global warming, which will mean more frequent and more severe natural disasters such as floods and droughts, more disease and poor crop yields.

Officials say India is taking steps to use energy more efficiently and is curbing the use of pollutants which harm the atmosphere, but it needs more financial resources and the transfer of new technologies to achieve this.

This may partially explain why solutions to global warming will be difficult to find and links back to the post about "Kooky English blogs" that argues, badly, that global warming might not be so bad for the US as it will warm up a few states. India meanwhile will feel the brunt of it.

This is why globalisation and environmental issues will continue to be important and hence worthy of illumination in this blog.

1 comment:

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