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Clubbing with China on climate hurting us, says PM’s sherpa

Climate Change: Suresh prabhu says India a 'victim of hyphenation', govt renews key panel.

suresh-2 “Unfortunately, India has got tightly bracketed with China and some other countries at the climate talks,” Prabhu told The Indian Express.

In an indication of a new thinking emerging within the government on its strategy for climate change negotiations, Suresh Prabhu, an aide to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has argued that India’s near-complete alignment with China at global climate talks has been hurting the country’s interests and that New Delhi must demand to be treated on a different footing than Beijing as far as taking steps to counter climate change is concerned.

“Unfortunately, India has got tightly bracketed with China and some other countries at the climate talks,” Prabhu told The Indian Express. “While India and China do have some similarities, the fact is that on most social and economic indicators, China is way ahead of India. But because they have allied so closely at the negotiations, India and China are seen as together. As a result, the international community is expecting the same kind of climate actions from India as it has been demanding from China… India’s situation is very different and everyone is aware of that. India must fight to break this hyphenation with China.”

He stressed he was only expressing his personal opinion and his remarks do not reflect any change in India’s official negotiating position. Prabhu does not hold any official position in the government relating to climate change but he is known to have the ear of the Prime Minister. He was recently appointed Modi’s sherpa for the upcoming annual G-20 meeting where climate change is likely to figure prominently. Sherpas are responsible for preparing the agenda for the meeting on behalf of their leaders. Prabhu, who was power minister in the Vajpayee government, also chairs the Council on Energy, Environment and Water, an increasingly influential advocacy group with deep interests in climate change. His is among the names being discussed as possible head of the organisation that will replace the disbanded Planning Commission.

Prabhu said he was not calling for a complete disengagement with China. “India and China must cooperate. But we must remember that India’s interests are not the same as China’s. We have to act in self-interest and I don’t think our interests are being adequately served by this hyphenation.”

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The close cooperation between the two countries at climate talks was seen as mutually beneficial, but Prabhu argued that it was only China that had benefited and went on to describe the alignment as a tactical mistake by India.

“We have not gained much from this kind of partnership. In fact, I would say it was a tactical mistake by India to almost totally align itself with China at Copenhagen (in 2009) and thereafter,” he said.

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“The concept of Common But Differentiated Responsibility, which is one of the basic pillars of climate negotiations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, needs to be applied not just between Annex-I (those that signed the Kyoto Protocol of 1997) and non-Annex-I countries but within the group of non-Annex-I countries as well. India has the largest number of poor people. Our income levels are several times lower than those of China. There is no way India could be asked to take the same kind of climate actions as China. India has become a victim of this bracketing with China.”

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Prabhu said the climate negotiations needed to be viewed as a long-term strategic issue. “It is not just a climate or an environmental issue. It will affect every sector of our economy. This is more important than the WTO negotiations. I think we need to reorient our climate negotiating strategy in the national interest,” he said.

The annual climate change talks due to be held this year in Lima, Peru, are meant to lay the ground for clinching a global climate deal at next year’s conference in Paris.

First published on: 06-11-2014 at 00:29 IST
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