Indian political parties divided over climate deal
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Indian political parties divided over climate deal

India’s government said Tuesday that it was satisfied with the Copenhagen climate agreement, but opposition parties slammed it as a betrayal for letting richer countries escape legally binding commitments to cut greenhouse gases.

The Copenhagen Accord – which urges major polluters to make deeper emissions cuts but does not require it – emerged principally from U.S. President Barack Obama’s meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the leaders of China, Brazil and South Africa.

Ahead of the climate conference, India said it plans to achieve by 2020 a 20-25 percent decrease in its “carbon intensity” – a measure of carbon dioxide emissions per unit of production – but it has refused to take on legally binding emissions targets or a set peak year for emissions, citing its need to concentrate on developing its economy.

India’s Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh told Parliament on Tuesday that the Copenhagen agreement was acceptable because it bases future negotiations on the Kyoto Protocol, “despite relentless attempts by developed countries” to ditch that agreement when it expires in 2012.

Many developed countries had wanted to see the end of the Kyoto Protocol, which the U.S. refused to sign and which required developed countries to cut emissions while making no demands on developing nations like India.

Ramesh said in his first public address since his return from the Danish capital that developing countries fended off attempts to set a target for a “peak year” in which emissions of heat-trapping gases – caused mostly by burning fossil fuels for transportation and electricity plus cutting down forests that trap carbon dioxide – stop growing and begin to reduce.

Poor countries argue that they need room to grow because their per capita emissions are still much lower than the rich countries responsible for most emissions now.

While the Copenhagen accord does speak of achieving a peaking of global and national emissions of heat-trapping gases as soon as possible, it also acknowledges that social and economic development are the first priorities of poor countries, Ramesh said.

“The accord therefore does not seek a specific year for peaking in developing countries, which incidentally had always been on the agenda of the developed countries,” Ramesh

Ramesh’s statement was slammed by both the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, the main opposition to the Congress party-led coalition that governs India, as well the country’s communist parties.

Arun Jaitley, a senior leader of the BJP called the agreement “a complete betrayal of poor and weak nations” while the richer nations “have been left off the hook.”

The agreement has also been decried by several nations that demanded deeper emissions cuts by the industrialized world.

The U.S.-brokered compromise calls for reducing emissions to keep temperatures from rising more than 2 Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels.

The agreement’s key elements, with no legal obligation, were that richer nations will finance a $10 billion-a-year, three-year program to fund poorer nations’ projects to deal with drought and other impacts of climate change, and to develop clean energy. A goal was also set to mobilize $100 billion a year by 2020 for the same adaptation and mitigation purposes.

The nations attending the U.N. conference agreed by consensus on a compromise to “take note” of the accord, instead of formally approving it.

Associated Press