After having got off on the wrong foot by welcoming US President George W Bush's plan to tackle global warming, the Union ministry of external affairs (MEA) tried to make amends by clarifying that India's position on climate change was unaltered. But all it could manage was a weak-kneed response to a policy which states that countries like India and China "cannot be absolved of their responsibility" to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Clearly, another opportunity has been lost to criticise the US plan in unequivocal terms.
In its initial statement, too, the MEA had meekly defended its position in this regard. This despite the fact that the Indian stand at the climate change negotiations has been to staunchly argue that industrialised countries should be the first to cut GHG emissions, given their higher contribution to the problem. The muted reaction is all the more appalling since India is among the nations that are likely to be worst hit by climate change. The US move has invoked anger and ridicule of other governments and non-government organisations. Even staunch US allies such as Japan and the UK have spoken out against it.
Bush rejected the Kyoto Protocol, under which the US would have to reduce aggregate GHG emissions by 7 per cent compared to 1990. But he offered instead to cut GHG intensity by 17.5 per cent by 2012 (see Down To Earth, Vol 10, No 20, March 15, 2002). Given that the GHG intensity in the US has been falling faster than this rate anyway since the mid-1990s, Bush's plan promises to do precisely nothing. Instead, in 2012, emissions in the US will actually be 30 per cent above the 1990 level if this plan is implemented.