Speech by High Commissioner H.E. Shri Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty at closing session of South Asia Civil Society Consultation on Climate Change ( Dhaka , 14 January 2008)
|Hon'ble Advisor for Primary & Mass Education, Women & Children's Affairs, Mrs. Rasheda K. Choudhury , H. E. Mr. Mohd . Touhid Hossain , Foreign Secretary, Government of Bangladesh ,
Mr. Anil Kumar Singh, Convener, South Asia Facilitation Group,
Resource Persons and my dear friends,
I am pleased to be present here today for the closing session of the South Asia Civil Society Consultation on Climate Change. I thank the Society for inviting me. I am glad to know that the meeting brought together civil society activists, NGOs and environmental experts to focus on the most pressing contemporary challenge of climate change. I am glad to know that participants have had detailed discussions and reached a consensus, which has been issued in the form of a Communique .
The world is finally waking up to the potential cataclysmic consequences of global climate change due to the consumerist, energy-intensive economic growth pattern followed by many countries for much of the 20 th century. For these countries, smokestacks and industries have become symbols of economic growth and fuel-guzzling vehicles a necessary accessory in their daily lifestyles. Unending human wants and the relentless urge to satisfy them have gradually wreaked collateral damage on our environment and the ability to maintain sustainable growth. As Henry David Thoreau had commented ` Thank God men cannot fly, and lay waste the sky as well as the earth.'
The leaders of India 's freedom struggle were conscious of environmental protection. By advocating self-sufficiency of villages, minimizing one's wants and leading a frugal lifestyle, Mahatma Gandhi said that ` There is enough in the world to satisfy every man's need but not for one man's greed .' Other successive Indian leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Atal Behari Vajpayee had each advocated a pattern of economic development which would adequately protect the environment and preserve our diverse flora and fauna. In the international community, India 's approach to the protection of our environment was shaped by the perceptive observations of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who told the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in 1972 that " poverty is the worst polluter" . These comments had sparked off a debate on the closely intertwined relationship between poverty, economic development and environmental protection.
The concept of sustainable development was first mooted in the 1980s and then highlighted at successive meetings like the Rio Summit of 1992, the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002, the World Summit in 2005 and Bali Summit of 2007. These meetings have highlighted the interdependent and mutually reinforcing pillars of sustainable development which are economic development, social development and environmental protection.
India is fully aware that developing countries and the most vulnerable sections of the world's population are bearing the brunt of unsustainable development, even though the poor ` walk the earth with a light carbon footprint .' Therefore, at the Bali Summit, India played a critical role in reaffirming the acceptance of UNFCC as a comprehensive institution for discussing climate change and in resisting attempts to enforce internationally binding GHG commitments on India , China and other developing countries. We also closely cooperated with developing countries to ensure that the US came on board vis-a-vis the Bali roadmap.
Our leaders have frequently stated that the impact of climate change on India will be adverse. It is likely that the frequency of extreme weather events, like cyclones, typhoons, non-seasonal monsoons would increase. We could face multiple risks from melting of Himalayan glaciers, change in weather patterns, rise in sea-levels, which would result in challenges to water availability, food security and public health . India already faces an acute water crisis in many of its states, which is likely to worsen owing to climate change.
It has become quite popular among experts and officials in the developed countries to blame China and India for rising carbon emissions. It is, however, well known that 75% of the present emissions of CO2 are emitted by developed countries, with the US , the world's largest economy, contributing about 20% alone. It is widely known that certain developed countries have blocked implementation of the Kyoto Protocol of 1997 and mandatory cuts in emissions by developed countries. We must, however, recognize that we are all in a leaking boat and will suffer if we do not cooperate.
India 's per capita emission of CO2 is amongst the lowest in the world, at around 1 ton per annum as against a world average of 4 tons. India is not a significant contributor to Green House Gases (GHG) emissions nor will it be so in the foreseeable future. In aggregate terms, India has 17% of the world population, but account for only 4% of global GHG emissions. Our energy intensity levels are also on par with most developed countries and have improved considerably in the last few years. Our economic development has also not been energy-intensive, for instance, while economic growth over the last five years has been around 9%, commercial energy consumption has only grown by under 4%.
Almost 500 million of our population remain without access to electricity. They depend on fuel by using critical bio-mass- wood, dried branches, cowdung , kerosene and petrol. This is an inefficient and environmentally unsound practice. A rapid increase in energy use per capita is imperative to realize our national development goals and the internationally accepted Millennium Development Goals. This is true for other developing countries also.
To ensure that India is able to meet the needs of its large, growing population and, yet, minimize the impact on ecology, we have taken a number of important steps:
(i) To coordinate national action on climate change at the highest level, we have set up a Council on Climate Change chaired by Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh,
(ii) India has emphasized the rapid utilization of alternative energy sources, like wind, solar, hydel, biomass and tidal power. Within a short span of time, India has developed the 4 th largest wind power capacity in the world [7000 MW] and this is expected to grow further swiftly. We are also working to increase significantly the share of civil nuclear power in our energy mix,
(iii) India has promulgated a National Environment Policy, an Energy Conservation Act and a new Electricity Act, that mandates the procurement of electricity from renewable sources,
(iv) We are launching the world's largest afforestation project, Green India, covering six million hectares of degraded forest land at a cost of over US$ 1.5 billion,
(v) The Bureau of Energy Efficiency has adopted and is implementing policies and measures on energy efficiency and conservation. An energy efficiency code for new buildings has been issued. Standards and labeling are being introduced in a major way along with energy audits,
(vi) Targeted interventions have raised energy efficiency in all the major energy intensive sectors of the economy â€“ steel, aluminum, fertilizer, paper and cement â€“ to global levels,
(vii) We are also working on making available Compact Fluorescent Lamps at affordable prices to all.
The developed countries are pressurizing developing countries to accept internationally binding commitments on reducing GHG emissions. This would enable developed countries to maintain their present affluent but environmentally unsustainable standards of living, while denying the opportunity to developing countries to sustain further economic growth. This is totally unacceptable to India and other developing countries. As our Prime Minister has offered, India 's per capita GHG emissions will not at any stage exceed those of developed countries, even as we pursue our goals of economic development. The developing countries lack the financial human and technological resources to use cleaner technology for power generation and industry. It is essential that the developed and developing countries approach the problem in a cooperative and inclusive spirit. Appropriate mechanisms and policies need to be enunciated to ensure that better and cheaper technologies are adopted globally, while simultaneously addressing the problems of poverty, environmental degradation and sustainable development. Developing countries, including South Asian nations, need to coordinate their positions and work together to meet the challenges of climate change together.
Albert Einstein had been prescient when he had forewarned that â€˜ We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive' . I would like to end by recalling a well known phrase â€˜ Take care of the earth and she will take care of you'. Thank you.