New Delhi: Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh on Tuesday admitted in Parliament that India had changed its ‘non-negotiable’ stand at the recent Copenhagen Summit, but sought to assure that the government had not compromised with the country’s interests.
Making a statement in the Rajya Sabha on the outcome of the December 7-18 Summit, Ramesh said India had repeatedly ensured that there was no possibility of any infringement of national sovereignty.
However, in the wake of attack from Opposition members who accused the government of "spin doctoring" and trying to interpret the Copenhagen Accord differently, the minister did admit at India was forced to change its climate stand at the UN talks.
"I plead guilty. I moved from information to consultation. Yes, there has been a shift," Ramesh said responding to Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley's contention that government had digressed from its commitment on reporting of mitigation actions on climate change.
Ramesh told the House that for actions taken by developing countries, and paid for by the rich nations, to mitigate emissions of greenhouse gases, "there is provision (in the Copenhagen Accord) for international consultation and analysis".
He however added that "the guidelines for these will be devised and defined in due course, but we have incorporated a specific provision that will ensure that national sovereignty is protected".
Prior to and during the summit, India had repeatedly made it clear that it would not compromise on its three key principles — no legally binding emission cuts, no peaking year and no international review of domestic-funded mitigation actions. “India will not compromise on its ‘teen-murti’,” Ramesh had then said.
The minister’s revelation in the Rajya Sabha came as the Opposition slammed the government on the Copenhagen deal, saying it was a "global disappointment" and a "compromise document" which would hurt India's sovereignty by opening up its voluntary emission cuts to global scrutiny.
Equating the accord with the Sharm-el-Sheikh joint statement between India and Pakistan, Jaitley accused the government of "spin doctoring" and trying to interpret the agreement differently.
Responding to the charge, the minister said India has not only protected but enhanced its interests at the Copenhagen Climate Summit, adding that the close coordination between India, China, Brazil and South Africa (BASIC) at the negotiations was another big plus to emerge out of the conference.
The minister informed MPs: "Negotiations under the Bali Action Plan (BAP) and the Kyoto Protocol (the current treaty to fight climate change) could not be concluded" in the Copenhagen Summit and were now supposed to be completed by the end of 2010.
"India, South Africa, Brazil, China and other developing countries were entirely successful in ensuring there was no violation of the BAP (of 2007)," Ramesh said.
"Despite relentless attempts made by developed countries, the conference succeeded in continuing negotiations under the Kyoto Protocol for the post-2012 period", when the current period of the protocol runs out.
‘No legally-binding accord’
Referring to the accord that came out of the summit, and due to which India had been accused of sacrificing its national interests, Ramesh said: "Contents of the accord are not legally binding nor do they constitute a mandate for a new negotiation process under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)."
He informed that India and 25 other countries had been invited by host country Denmark to draft the accord, which the conference did not adopt because there was no consensus.
The conference had however "taken note" of the accord.
The accord clearly sets out the goal of keeping global temperature rise within two degrees Celsius "in context of equity and sustainable development", Ramesh said, adding that he had ensured "right of developing countries like India in having its share of global atmospheric space cannot be ignored, a point repeatedly made by the prime minister in all his interactions".
Responding to criticism that developing countries had accepted a deadline by which their greenhouse gas emissions would peak, Ramesh said: "The accord explicitly recognises that the time frame for peaking will be longer in developing countries.
"It also bears in mind that social and economic development and poverty eradication is first and overriding priorities for developing countries."
Greenhouse gas emissions are warming the atmosphere and leading to climate change.
Ramesh said: "The accord does not speak of a specific peaking year - another area of success."
According to the minister, there was a proposal to accelerate green technology development and transfer. "The negotiations on the precise architecture are underway at UNFCCC. This and many other Indian proposals have found acceptance" in the Copenhagen outcome.”
‘BASIC emerged as powerful group’
Ramesh said: "A notable feature of this conference is the manner in which the BASIC group of countries (Brazil, South Africa, India and China) coordinated their position.
"BASIC ministers met virtually on an hourly basis right through the conference; India and China worked very very closely together."
The minister said: "I believe the BASIC group has emerged as a powerful group in climate negotiations. Their unity was instrumental in ensuring that the accord was finalised in accordance with the Bali Action Plan and the Kyoto Protocol."
Ramesh added that India had "continued and will continue to work with G77", the Group of 77 countries that - together with China - conducts climate negotiations as a bloc.
But he went back to the meeting of US President Barack Obama with the BASIC heads of government to say: "It was at this meeting that the Copenhagen Accord was clinched to the satisfaction of all concerned".
According to Ramesh: "At the summit, our national interest has been not only protected but enhanced."
"Copenhagen is not a destination but the beginning of a long process," he added. "There are many risks, many hazards, many threats. We have to be extraordinarily vigilant and careful."
At the same time, India had to act against climate change, he added, calling for a "detailed road map for a low-carbon growth strategy in the 12th five year plan" that starts in 2012.
(With IANS inputs)
First Published: Tuesday, December 22, 2009, 19:20