In late April, the Indo-British Environment Initiative (IBEI) was launched simultaneously in London and New Delhi to help unblock follow-up international green negotiations after the Rio summit. The intiative was taken up by British environment secretary Michael Howard, who wrote to his Indian counterpart Kamal Nath, inviting him to set up a forum for environmental consultations -- and Nath responded enthusiastically. Indian environment ministry mandarins are understandably pleased at this recognition of India's growing importance in international environmental affairs.
At the New Delhi launch, Nath said the IBEI "was symbolic of the cooperation between the G-7 and G-77 group of countries". Howard and Nath both expressed hope that Commonwealth countries from the North and the South would eventually join the IBEI and make it a multilateral forum.
Though environmentalists are optimistic that IBEI will have major influence on post-Rio negotiations, they concede differences exist. But Nath says, "While we differ on several environmental issues, particularly the Global Environment Facility and the future of forests, the IBEI provides some common ground." Agreeing, Howard added that though the two countries had not established an identity of views, "we have established a common approach".
IBEI's first test will be at the opening meeting of the Commission for Sustainable Development, scheduled for June 23-24. How well it succeeds will determine how much of a multilateral forum the IBEI becomes.
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