India should give categorical statements: Ramesh on climate

India has gone back to its old rigid argumentative posturing on climate change but needs to be more pro-active on the issue and give clear categorical statements on what it has to offer, feels Congress MP Jairam Ramesh.

India should give categorical statements: Ramesh on climate

New Delhi: India has gone back to its old rigid argumentative posturing on climate change but needs to be more pro-active on the issue and give clear categorical statements on what it has to offer, feels Congress MP Jairam Ramesh.

"India should be making offers to the world that yes we know that we are increasingly becoming a major contributor to the flow of green house gases and this is our roadmap for reducing our emissions' intensity, for ensuring the amount of cleaner coal we use and for solar energy and wind energy," he says.

"We should give clear categorical statements. What we had in Copenhagen and Cancun is missing right now," Ramesh, who was Union environment minister in the previous UPA government, told PTI.

He says what the UPA did in Copenhagen and Cancun is missing right now.

"In 2009 at Copenhagen and in 2010 in Cancun, India was seen as a constructive player, a problem solver trying to bring a solution, trying to bring countries together.

"But now, I am afraid, our approach - both the substance of what we say and the manner in which we say, the style is far more detrimental to our image than the substance."

According to Ramesh, even the Chinese position has changed in the last five years because of public health concerns within China but "Indian position has stuck in the old mindset".

He also dismissed the Prime Minister's Council on Climate Change as "not a very useful instrument".

"There are some members in it who are champions of the old point of view. The council needs to show new thinking. There should be younger people," he suggests.

Ramesh has come out with a book 'Green Signals: Ecology, Growth, and Democracy in India', which chronicles the '1991 moment' in India's environmental decision-making, telling the story of how, for the first time, the doors of the environment ministry were opened to voices, hitherto unheard, into the policy-making process.

Using speaking orders on high-profile projects, notes and letters to the Prime Minister, ministerial colleagues, chief ministers and others, the author gives an insight into the debates, struggles, challenges, and obstacles to bringing environmental considerations into the mainstream of political and economic decision-making.

The book, published by Oxford, also addresses the challenges involved in trying to ensure economic growth with ecological security.

Ramesh says there was no pressure whatsoever or interference by the party top brass regarding decisions made by the Environment Ministry during his tenure.

"Political leaders, MPs and chief ministers would approach me giving me feedback but there was no pressure on me on taking decisions.

"These decisions were taken independently and even some Congress chief ministers were not happy with some of these decisions," he says.

On the forest cover in India, he says that not only has the area under forests to be icreased but more importantly their quality has to be improved.

Despite India being a net re-forester, adding more forest land as compared to the amount of forest land being lost, forest areas face many threats, he says.

Almost all the new coal reserves are in forest areas.

The more coal you mine the more forest areas you destroy.

He also claims that the concept of go and no-go areas started by him has now been completely diluted.

"Go areas are those where coal mining is allowed and no-go those where mining is not permitted. Roughly there were 70 per cent go areas and 30 per cent no-go.

"Now it has been completely diluted to 90 and 10 per cent," he says.

On the government's indication that it might soon allow scientific trials of GM crops, he says that there is a need for an independent regulator besides bringing all the states on board on the issue and ensure that toxicity and safety tests are adequately conducted.

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