At least three members of the key negotiating team had to be reassured by Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh that the official brief is unchanged. Though not exactly out on the streets to protest the government action, even opposition parties are ununeasy. India’s chief climate negotiator, Shyam Saran, is flying back to India to brief Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Despite explanations galore, confusion reigns.
India’s stated position on climate change and the tough questions it is drawing
The billion-dollar question is whether all of this is by design. For the past few months, there has been a concerted effort to impart a certain “flexibility” to India’s position on climate change. India wants to be seen as a deal-maker. But for many experts, India has yielded ground before letting the opponents make their moves. Or did pressure from the US—as well as similar cuts taken by developing countries like China and Brazil—make India commit to a show of action?
Sure, a carbon intensity cut isn’t a bad thing. According to Kirit Parikh, author of India’s integrated energy policy report, it’s an “acceleration of processes to improve energy efficiency” to conserve our fast-depleting coal resources. While admitting to have been consulted by the Planning Commission on the report that led to the cabinet decision on carbon intensity cuts, Parikh is quick to say he is not responsible for the final report. At the same time, he adds, “Reduction in emission intensity is only a half-step, everybody has been doing it. For more significant impact, we need to reduce overall emissions.”
But experts say India’s move has far-reaching implications. Unlike China—which has estimated an investment need of $30 billion annually to meet its 40-45 per cent carbon intensity reduction target—India is yet to make any estimate about the costs involved in meeting the targets. China, incidentally, has higher emission levels than India. Moreover, according to estimates, India’s carbon intensity has been coming down, particularly after liberalisation, and currently is half of Chinese levels. “The negotiators have not seen the document on the basis of which the intensity cut target has been worked out. Until people know the nuts and bolts or the sectoral targets, they will not know the impact,” says Prodipto Ghosh, former environment sectary and a member of the Indian team.
There will clearly be a cost for large energy and manufacturing companies that will have to invest in technology. Worryingly, larger companies will have the bulk to pass on tariffs to the consumers. For instance, Rakesh Nath, chairperson of the Central Electricity Authority, is unsure what the cuts will mean for the power sector. He, however, states plans are afoot to refurbish many old power plants, totalling 12,000 MW capacity, at a cost of Rs 20,000 crore over the next eight years. “The cost of power to consumers may actually go up,” says Vishal Kedia, head (emerging business), Enam Holdings, a big player in the carbon trading business.
What India's Carbon Intensity Cut Means
Carbon intensity is the amount of carbon dioxide emitted per unit of GDP. IEA values it at 0.33 kg/$ for India (and 0.61 kg/$ for China)
Whether it is steel, cement, automobiles or fertiliser units, all of which are energy-intensive, considerable costs will be involved in upgrading or setting up new high-tech units. Take the super critical power plants in the pipeline, the new technologies will easily add 10-15 per cent to overall costs. According to state-owned power major NTPC, against Rs 40 lakh per MW spent earlier for maintenance, the new tab will be Rs 1 crore per MW on upgrading old plants. The government move will involve “unforeseen risks and costs”, writes Jyoti Parikh, member of the PM’s advisory council on climate change, in an article in The Indian Express.
“It will put a lot of smes in a tight spot, because overseas technology to achieve these norms is prohibitively expensive. It will not only increase our dependence on overseas companies, but will add to the product costs,” warns Rajesh Sharma, director (marketing) of Soil & Enviro Industries, makers of air pollution control equipment. Alternatively, many say, they would continue their inefficient ways, hopeful that regulators and inspectors will look the other way.
The tone and tenor of developments at Copenhagen has added to the fears of Indian companies, most of which are still trying to make sense of what is afoot for them. Enam’s Kedia, for one, feels some sort of legislation is inevitable after a couple of years at the most. “Most of the industry has already taken measures to achieve some amount of green technology and emission cuts. But that part was easy. To scale up from here is difficult,” adds Srikanta Panigrahi, director general of environment consultancy Carbon Minus India.
Such fears are not restricted to India. Upset that their concerns are being overlooked in the focus on big, developing countries, the island nations, led by Tuvalu, the fourth-smallest country, have broken ranks from G-77 to voice their protest. Ambuj D. Sagar, who holds the Chaturvedi chair for policy studies at IIT Delhi, however, feels that while G-77 is falling apart, “in order to make progress, issues of developing nations and poor nations will have to be resolved if a robust deal has to be worked out.”
Given that the US is currently not willing to undertake firm commitments on emission cuts or funding clean technology, a consensus solution seems unlikely. Not at Copenhagen. Even so, a consensus on climate change should not be at the cost of India’s deprived millions. As former planning commission energy expert Surya P. Sethi states, “We must fight for our environment space to develop.” Above all, there should be a more informed public debate. Not, as it seems, climate policy by stealth.
By Lola Nayar with Arindam Mukherjee and Arti Sharma
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
We at Outlookindia.com welcome feedback and your comments, including scathing criticism
1. Scathing, passionate, even angry critiques are welcome, but please do not indulge in abuse and invective. Our Primary concern is to keep the debate civil. We urge our users to try and express their disagreements without being disagreeable. Personal attacks are not welcome. No ad hominem please.
2. Please do not post the same message again and again in the same or different threads
3. Please keep your responses confined to the subject matter of the article you are responding to. Please note that our comments section is not a general free-for-all but for feedback to articles/blogs posted on the site
4. Our endeavour is to keep these forums unmoderated and unexpurgated. But if any of the above three conditions are violated, we reserve the right to delete any comment that we deem objectionable and also to withdraw posting privileges from the abuser. Please also note that hate-speech is punishable by law and in extreme circumstances, we may be forced to take legal action by tracing the IP addresses of the poster.
5. If someone is being abusive or personal, or generally being a troll or a flame-baiter, please do not descend to their level. The best response to such posters is to ignore them and send us a message at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT
6. Please do not copy and paste copyrighted material. If you do think that an article elsewhere has relevance to the point you wish to make, please only quote what is considered fair-use and provide a link to the article under question.
7. There is no particular outlookindia.com line on any subject. The views expressed in our opinion section are those of the author concerned and not that of all of outlookindia.com or all its authors.
8. Please also note that you are solely responsible for the comments posted by you on the site. The comments could be deleted or edited entirely at our discretion if we find them objectionable. However, the mere fact of their existence on our site does not mean that we necessarily approve of their contents. In short, the onus of responsibility for the comments remains solely with the authors thereof. Outlookindia.com or any of its group publications, may, however, retains the right to publish any of these comments, with or without editing, in any medium whatsoever. It is therefore in your own interest to be careful before posting.
9.Outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for how any search engine -- such as Google, Bing etc -- caches or displays these comments. Please note that you are solely responsible for posting these comments and it is a privilege being granted to our registered users which can be withdrawn in case of abuse. To reiterate:
a. Comments once posted can only be deleted at the discretion of outlookindia.com
b. The comments reflect the views of the authors and not of outlookindia.com
c. outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for the way search engines cache or display these comments
d. Please therefore take due caution before you post any comments as your words could potentially be used against you
10. We have an online thread for our comments policy:
You are welcome to post your suggestions here or in case you have a specific issue, to directly email us at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT