India said Thursday it was committed to fighting climate change but called developed nations’ failure to implement the Kyoto Protocol the “single biggest issue” facing multilateral talks.
Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh reiterated India’s desire to reach a global agreement at the upcoming UN summit in Copenhagen, but said it was “unfair” to blame developing countries for high carbon emissions when rich nations had failed to fulfill their obligations under the Kyoto Protocol.
India wants “a meaningful international agreement that all countries will take seriously and implement, unlike Kyoto where countries took on legal obligations and reneged on them,” Ramesh told a briefing of foreign media in New Delhi.
The government has come under criticism for its consistent opposition, along with fellow emerging market heavyweight China, to binding emission cuts in a new climate treaty.
Both countries say developed nations, particularly the United States, should first present sufficient targets of their own.
India prides itself on having low per capita emissions — the average Indian produces one tonne of carbon dioxide per year to the average American’s 20 tonnes — and has pledged not to let those rates exceed those of developed nations.
But its huge population puts it among the world’s leading emitters, and Ramesh is under pressure ahead of the December conference in Copenhagen, which is meant to seal a new international accord on fighting climate change after the Kyoto Protocol’s requirements expire in 2012.
Ramesh said India had been “positive and proactive” in tackling climate change and global warming, emphasising forestation and solar power initiatives. He also pointed to plans for an environmental protection agency and said India would launch a satellite to monitor greenhouse gases in the region within the next few years.
“Just because we draw attention to the hypocrisy of the West does not mean that we are not conscious of our own responsibility,” Ramesh said, adding that India had a right “to be recognised as latecomers and stepchildren of the Industrial Revolution.”