Climate hara-kiri

Published: Friday 31 October 2008

India-Japan statement on energy efficiency

ON SEPTEMBER 17, India and Japan issued a joint statement that threatens to overturn India's traditional stance at climate change negotiations. The statement issued by Planning Commission Deputy Chairman, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, and Japan's Minister for Economy, Trade and Industry, Toshihiro Nikai, is ostensibly about cooperation in the energy sector. But it also has text, which some believe could contradict India's traditional posture that industrialized nations, and not developing countries, must reduce their greenhouse gas (ghg) emissions.

Developed countries, as part of their industrialization, have emitted large amounts of ghgs, the primary cause of climate change. Recognizing this, the Kyoto Protocol has imposed binding targets on industrialized nations to reduce their emissions.Developing countries, which are not responsible for historical emissions, are exempted from any mandatory commitments.

At present, negotiations are on for hammering out an agreement for post-2012, when the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol ends. Among the suggestions doing the rounds is the sectoral approach, put forward by Japan earlier this year. The method assigns emission quotas to sectors such as power and steel in countries that are big ghg emitters. This means that major developing countries like India and China will have to cut their emissions, in contrast, to the Kyoto Protocol that only obligates industrialized countries. There is also concern that a sectoral approach will put a higher burden of emissions cuts on developing countries as their industries are less energy efficient now.

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There is no contradiction between India's bilateral initiatives with Japan and its position on emissions commitments
-Montek Singh Ahluwalia
As a result, the Japanese proposal has come under criticism from developing countries, including India. But the September 17 India-Japan joint statement notes that a sectoral approach could improve energy efficiency. Does this not contradict India's position at climate change talks, including the most recent one in Accra, Ghana? Ahluwalia does not think so. There is no contradiction, he said, between India's bilateral initiatives with Japan and its position on emissions commitments. "India's position continues to be that an international sectoral approach should not lead to imposition of universal standards and benchmarks as there are differing national circumstances. This has been recognized and agreed by Japan in international negotiations," said Ahluwalia.

The Planning Commission Deputy Chairman's response also noted that enhanced energy efficiency was one of eight priority areas in India's National Action Plan on Climate Change. Released on June 30, the plan is India's strategy to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

The Japanese proposal on sectoral approach is based on the most efficient technologies available. Industries that emit more ghgs than their allocation have to buy more efficient systems from countries that possess these technologies--from Japan, for example. At the Accra climate talks in August, India pointed out that it was inappropriate to prescribe technologies since it could lead to the formation of cartels and stifling innovation. But after September 17, Ahluwalia said, India would continue to cooperate with Japan on energy conservation, as Japan is one of the leaders in energy efficient technologies.

India and Japan agreed at the meeting to cooperate on energy efficiency and conservation, power and coal, renewable energy, and oil and natural gas. Japan has offered to assist setting up energy efficiency centres and improve the efficiency of coal-fired power plants in India.

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