Devil quotes the scriptures

The absence of a clear position on the transfer of nuclear energy technology under the clean development mechanism amounts to doublespeak

Published: Saturday 30 September 2000

Rights come with responsibilities. This is a lesson the Indian government, if there is such a homogenous entity, needs to learn. Relevant ministries recently refused to issue a clear statement opposing or supporting the transfer of nuclear energy technology from industrialised countries to developing countries under the global climate convention and its Kyoto Protocol's clean development mechanism ( cdm ). The reason stated is that every country should have a 'right to choose' its own options for sustainable energy in the future.

Such assertions for global democracy are very well and, indeed, India has led the G77 block of developing countries in its demand for a fair and equitable climate regime. Along with the right to choose, however, comes the responsibility to choose wisely. Nuclear energy may be low in greenhouse gas emissions but has failed to meet the generating capacities that were promised in its early years, besides from the safety hazard and the waste disposal menace. It is currently being phased out even in countries which rely on it to a great extent (see p20-21: Failing to come clean ). India could well become a dumping ground for these phased-out technologies, trading them in for valuable carbon emission credits. The world does not need to move from the fear of global warming to the fear of a nuclear meltdown.

India has strongly stated in international fora that only renewable technology transfer should be included in cdm . Otherwise developing countries get locked into technologies that are not necessarily sustainable, giving developed countries the option of not having to invest in renewable technologies. The same arguments stand against nuclear energy -- which could by no means qualify as a sustainable technology, and would distract investments that will otherwise go into renewables. Therefore, the unwillingness of the government to strongly exclude nuclear amounts to doublespeak.

The statements issued by government departments indicate either the usual dysfunction among them or else a considered decision to play two cards at the same time. The Indian Atomic Energy Commission ( iaec ) has issued several press statements in the past few weeks supporting nuclear technology transfer under cdm . Meanwhile, the ministry of external affairs and the environment ministry, which deal with the country's position at the climate forum, claim that they have not been consulted by the iaec . But they then refuse to come out clearly opposing nuclear. It is high time the three had it out with each other, and put forward a coherent policy decision.

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