Media Briefing by Special Envoy of Prime Minister Mr. Shyam Saran at Sheraton Hotel in Pittsburgh, PA, USA
September 24, 2009
MEA Official Spokesperson (Mr. Vishnu Prakash): As many of you had requested, the Special Envoy to Prime Minister Mr. Shyam Saran, who had participated on the 22nd of September at the high-level event on Climate Change at UN in New York, is here to talk to you, to give you a perspective on issues pertaining to climate change and energy security. After his opening remarks he will be happy to take a few questions.
The Special Envoy is joined by Ambassador of India to USA to his left, Mrs. Meera Shankar. To her left is the Media Advisor to Prime Minister Dr. Harish Khare.
Special Envoy to Prime Minister Mr. Shyam Saran: Thank you very much and a very good evening to all of you. I thought I will just give you a brief perspective on the issue of energy security and climate change which will, of course, figure in the G20 Summit but has been also the focus of several high-level events in the recent past.
The G20 Summit which will convene tomorrow will have as its focus on the global economic and financial situation. Recognising, however, that climate change and energy security related issues are very closely interlinked, we expect the Summit to convey a significant commitment to accelerating a shift away from a pattern of economic activity based on depleting and finite reserves of fossil fuels through the promotion of renewable and clean sources of energy.
The Summit is expected to reflect an acknowledgement by the G20 leaders that success in the ongoing multilateral negotiations on climate change requires the mobilisation of new and additional financial resources to support both mitigation and adaptation action in developing countries. This will provide political momentum to our deliberations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
We do not see the G20 as a forum for negotiating on climate change issues, and that includes the finance issue as well. The sole negotiating forum for climate change is the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Nevertheless, a strong political message from the G20 leaders that they are committed to a comprehensive, balanced, and above all an equitable outcome at Copenhagen would have a favourable impact on the negotiations. In this respect the G20 Summit will be able to build upon the success of the recently concluded Summit on Climate Change which was convened by the UN Secretary-General on September 22, in New York.
The Secretary-General’s summary, if you have had a chance to look at it, reflected the strong determination on the part of world leaders to spare no effort to ensure a successful outcome at Copenhagen. From our perspective it is a matter of satisfaction that the UN Secretary-General’s summary reflected, broadly speaking, our own approach in particular the need to locate climate change response within the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication.
The External Affairs Minister Shri S.M. Krishna, and the Minister of State for Environment and Forests Shri Jairam Ramesh participated in the interactive roundtable, which followed the opening plenary. External Affairs Minister made a brief presentation outlining our perspective on climate change and acquainting the Heads of State and Governments present with India’s own significant actions to deal with the twin challenge of energy security and climate change.
I wish to give you also a brief outline of our discussions at the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate Change which was convened in Washington on September 16 and 17. There we reviewed the developments in climate change negotiations since the adoption of the L’Aquila declaration on climate change. It was agreed that we need to place greater emphasis than hitherto on adaptation to climate change by developing countries for which both financial resources as well as technology transfer would be required.
There were a number of presentations on technology cooperation among the MEF countries themselves. These included energy efficiency, solar energy, wind power, smart grids, carbon capture and storage, and clean coal technologies. India and Japan by the way are the co-leaders on the last mentioned project, the clean coal technologies, and have drawn up a work plan to promote cooperation in this area. This was very well received at the meeting.
The Washington meeting also considered the issue of mitigation, and in particular the manner in which voluntary national actions being undertaken by developing countries could be reflected in a Copenhagen agreement. India has recommended that these national actions such as those incorporated in India’s own National Action Plan on Climate Change could be reflected in the national communication to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which is already provided for in that Convention. There appears to be a growing receptivity to this approach.
Like the G20 we see the Major Economies Forum also as a useful forum in which major economies can exchange views in an informal manner on several issues confronting the climate change negotiations. These deliberations can be helpful in promoting consensus at the negotiations but, of course, cannot be a substitute for those negotiations. In our view, substantive decisions can only emerge through the multilateral process since that is where all the stakeholders are represented.
Thank you very much and I will be very happy to answer any questions that you may have.
Question: I was wondering whether you could comment on this announcement from President Obama on reducing the subsidies on fossil fuels. Is India prepared to act on that and to remove direct subsidies and incentives on fossil fuels?
Special Envoy: That is one of the issues which are going to be under discussion at the Summit. As you may be aware, we look upon subsidy as something that should be retired over a period of time. At the same time we have to take into account the fact that in a country like India there are also large social needs of a population which does not have any access to energy at all. Therefore, whatever measures we take in respect of the rationalisation of fuel subsidies will have to cater for the interests of those sections of our population.
Question: Basically I wanted to elaborate on this question itself. We have set up Committee after Committee on lowering subsidies and allowing our long-term commitment to decontrol the retail fuel prices. Climate change apart, there are domestic compulsions of energy efficiency, economic efficiency, which require us to do this. Unless we show this minimum political courage to do what we undertook as a Government policy way back in 1998, how seriously will the rest of the world take our commitment to climate change?
Special Envoy: I do not think I need to go beyond what I have already said. That is, as a policy objective certainly we need to rationalise energy prices. That is something which is conceded. I think we are already making moves in that direction. But as I mentioned to you, we also have to take into account that there are very large sections of our population whose energy requirements will also have to be met in some manner. Therefore, while we are taking this policy forward, we will have to be sensitive to the requirements of that section of our population.
Question: Before you all came to the US, earlier in the month we had the Indian position that India would not bend to US demands for legally-binding caps on carbon emissions. It was made very clear that that was the position that you would not bow to any threats or demands from the US side. Now that you are here and this is on the agenda, can we hope in terms of maybe a softening of India’s stance, a change perhaps, a clarification, that would bring the two sides closer together? Or are you going to stick to that stand?
Special Envoy: I do not think that emission reductions or issues which are there before the climate change negotiations are going to be considered here at Pittsburgh. That is not the focus of the meeting here. The meeting here will be essentially on the global economic and financial situation. As far as the issue of emission reductions is concerned, I think it continues to be our position that we will not be able to take absolute emission reduction targets of the kind which developed countries are obliged to take under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. However, that does not mean that India is not taking a number of significant mitigation actions itself. We have a National Action Plan which covers both mitigation as well as adaptation, and there are several national missions whose objective would be in fact to mitigate emissions. That is quite well understood. What we have conveyed is that there are things that we will be able to do within the limitation of our own resources. However, if we are to do more then it is obvious that unless there is enabling support both in terms of financial resources as well as technology transfer, taking such action will in fact impact on our growth process. I think this is something which is fairly well understood by our developed country partners. I do not think it is true that we are facing demands or facing threats that we should undertake emission reduction targets. I think there is an understanding that India is doing quite a great deal, but there must be some way in which this could be reflected as far as the Copenhagen agreement is concerned. What we have indicated, as I mentioned in my opening remarks, is that those actions, whatever we have done and what we intend to do in the future, could be very well reflected in the national communication to the UNFCCC which is an instrument which has already been provided for under the Convention.
Question: Just going back to the fuel subsidies, you said that in the medium term you recognise the need to phase out fuel subsidies. Can you give us a timeframe on that? We have heard that there was going to be a timeframe of around five years mentioned in the G20 communiqué. What kind of timeframe is India looking for?
Special Envoy: I will not anticipate or prejudge what the result of the deliberations would be in the G20 because those deliberations are still to take place. I would also like to point out here that the aspect of fuel subsidies should be taken in the correct perspective. If you take the prices of fuel in India relative to the disposable incomes in India, in fact energy prices in India are probably the highest in the world. When we are looking at the aspect of energy pricing we should also keep in mind what is the level of development that a country has. Having said that, it is important for India as for other countries, if there are distortions in terms of energy pricing it is in our own interest to try and remove those distortions. A general commitment to that objective is likely at this Summit. But in what form it will appear, we should wait and see the communiqué.
Question: What would be the relationship between national commitment and international obligation? Would it be the case that India will take national actions and notify an international agency so that that becomes an organisation that notes and records actions of countries like India but enforces actions taken by other countries? Would it have then a dual role of noting information from some countries and enforcing action in others?
Special Envoy: Please be aware that as far as the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change is concerned, it obliges only the developed countries to take on absolute emission reduction obligations. Developing countries are not expected to take on such obligations, although developing countries are encouraged to take mitigation actions with the provision that these need to be supported by adequate financial resources and technology transfer. That is the legal position. That is how in the Kyoto Protocol, which was concluded in 1997, you have an Annex-I list which is basically developed countries with quantitative reduction targets that they are supposed to achieve by the year 2012. That is the first commitment period. Developing countries are parties to the Kyoto Protocol but they are not expected to take on any quantitative reduction targets. That is the legal position. What we have conveyed in the negotiations is that not because we are under pressure but because we believe that this is something which is good for India, there are number of things that we are doing and will continue to do within the limitation of our own national resources. These actions by India can be reflected in the national communication which is an instrument which is already provided for under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. No new instrument is required. What will this national communication do? It will give the international community a clear picture of what we have been able to do and what we intend to do in the future. So, if the international community is looking for a picture of what India is doing both in respect of mitigation as well as adaptation, this is where that information will be available. But this is quite different from the absolute emission reduction targets, quantitative targets which have to be undertaken by the developed countries, for which there is also in the Kyoto Protocol a compliance procedure.
Question: Mr. Saran, if I could ask a question about national security partly related to energy security, can I get your reaction to the Security Council Resolution this morning asking all non-signatories of the NPT to sign? What is India’s position and what is your reaction?
Special Envoy: This is straying a bit far away from climate change. I will only repeat what has officially already been stated by the Government of India, that is, we do not intend to be a party to the NPT as a non-nuclear weapon state. We have also said that we are committed to the goal of nuclear disarmament; that we have also reaffirmed our commitment to a unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing. As far India’s position is concerned, that has been very clearly laid out. I really do not have anything more to add to that.
Question: Sir, you mentioned about additional funding. There are some countries which are looking at funding through the existing multilateral institutions. Does India support that view, or are we looking for a separate mechanism?
Special Envoy: We draw our position from what is stated in the Framework Convention itself because that is really the starting point of what we are trying to negotiate. What the Convention says very clearly is that there should be a financial mechanism set up within the UNFCCC itself and that it should be, therefore, multilateral in character. In pursuance of that we actually already have an institution which has been set up for adaptation. We have an adaptation fund. That adaptation fund is multilateral; that adaptation fund has a governing structure which has a balanced representation from both developed as well as the developing countries. The problem really is that there is not enough money in the adaptation fund. What we are looking for in the negotiations is similarly the setting up of such a multilateral institution located within the UNFCCC and having a similar kind of governance structure, but it must have access to sufficient, predictable, stable financial resources. That is really the challenge. This does not mean that we reject financing that may be available through the multilateral development banks. There may be financing available even through bilateral sources. That is also provided for in the Convention. But these cannot be taken as fulfilment of the legal obligation which is incorporated in the Convention. So, we have a very clear perspective on this that we need to have a multilateral institution within the UNFCCC itself.
Question: Watching the way things have been unfolding in the last one week one gets the feeling that climate change has become the single biggest, most important issue in international negotiations. Perhaps that is reflected by the fact that as Special Envoy of PM on Climate Change you have been a common factor at three major meetings in the last one week. You were at the Major Economies meeting; you were at the SG’s Climate Change Summit, and you are here. So, overall, where would you place climate change in the hierarchy of international diplomatic negotiations at the moment? Secondly, would you say that SG’s summary on the Summit on 22nd is an accurate reflection of international thinking on the issue? I understand that at the various roundtables all the participants including our two Ministers got only one and a half minutes to speak. So, how can you state any position in one and a half minutes’ time? So, is the summary an accurate reflection of what the thinking is?
Special Envoy: Please do not ask me to paraphrase what the UN Secretary-General has projected as the basic understanding amongst the leaders who took part in this high-level event. I can only go by what he has stated because we were obviously not present at all the roundtables. We were present only at one roundtable. It would be fair to say that no doubt the climate change today is at the very top of the international agenda. One of the reasons is also because we are only a few weeks away from Copenhagen where we need to come up with an agreed outcome on climate change related issues. So, there is a certain sense of urgency; there is a certain sense that we are coming very close to the decision point; and, therefore, we need to mobilise international opinion, the political will amongst leaders, in order to ensure that we come up with an outcome which meets the expectations of the international community. From that point of view, the high-level event in New York did serve the purpose of bringing together a fairly large number of important leaders to first of all give a very clear political message that (1) the leaders in the world recognise this as a major challenge, (2) that all the leaders who attended the special event are committed to ensuring that there is a successful outcome at Copenhagen, (3) that whatever is required in terms of the national efforts which have to be made by different countries in terms of facilitating this outcome, that will be forthcoming. As I said, this is not the negotiating forum.
Neither is the G20 a negotiating forum nor for that matter MEF is a negotiating forum. But the value of these fora lies in the fact that they represent a certain strong political will amongst major countries, and give a signal that we attach a lot of importance to coming up with a comprehensive, a balanced and above all an equitable outcome at Copenhagen. Several of these ideas, as I mentioned, are reflected in the summary which has been provided by the Secretary-General.
Question: You talked about our own national action plan and how we are going about reducing emissions. Are we in a position right now to quantify that in the next five years these are the kind of reductions that would happen? There were talks that a legislation is also being planned on the lines of the fiscal legislation that we have in India. Secondly, in terms of financing, what are the financing needs of India till 2020? The UN estimated that to be about 500 billion dollars.
Special Envoy: Firstly, as I mentioned earlier, the National Action Plan has eight National Missions. These eight National Missions include mitigation actions; they also include adaptation action; and by the way they also include a very strong technology component. We also have a National Mission on Strategic Knowledge because we need to have a much more detailed database for dealing with climate change issues than we have now. So, it is a much more broad ranging kind of action plan which is not focused entirely on mitigation. However, take for example the National Mission on Enhanced Energy Efficiency which was recently approved by the Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change. In a Mission like that obviously there will be targets. For example, we are looking at something like a 20 per cent improvement in energy efficiency by the year 2020. You can very well reduce that to some kind of a carbon figure too because reducing energy intensity also means the requirement of reducing carbon intensity. If you take for example the project that we have on renewable energy, obviously if we are going to meet a certain target by say 2020 on solar energy or other renewable sources of energy, then you can say we have been able, through this, to avoid carbon emissions of such an amount. So, in some cases obviously we can put targets. In other cases we may not be able to put targets. Take forestry. Yes, of course, you can put a target.
We have already put a target of increasing our forest area by something like six million hectares, which is really creating a very large carbon sink in the country. These are very significant actions which we are taking, but these actions are not only related to emission reduction but they are also related to the much broader issue of sustainable development. We look upon climate change issues, as far as India is concerned, not narrowly from the perspective of only reducing emissions but from the larger perspective of promoting sustainable development. That is the approach that we take. In terms of what is the kind of financing which is required, we are not looking at the financing question in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change as only related to India. But we certainly do have a sense of what may be required in terms of financing requirements of developing countries as a whole. taking into account the fact that there are a whole series of challenges that we face not only again in terms of mitigation but also adaptation. In fact for many developing countries adaptation challenge is perhaps the greater challenge. What is the kind of scale of resources that we need to have for meeting these requirements? Our own view is that it is something between the range of 0.5 per cent of developed country GDP to one per cent of developed country GDP. If we say we require a very ambitious response, the mobilisation should be closer to one per cent. But perhaps, maybe realistically only 0.5 per cent of the developed country GDP may be available. This is something which is still under negotiation. We have not yet come to a conclusion on this point.
Question: Mr. Saran, you said that the G20 is not the forum for negotiating any kind of emission targets. So, why bring up the issue here because on both the sides the stated positions are quite obvious? You are not going to accept any legally-binding norms and they have their own position. Secondly, you mentioned that India expects that the G20 will affirm some kind of commitment towards the successful completion of the Copenhagen round. Is there a feeling that probably you would not have a successful conclusion of the Copenhagen Summit from the position right now and it will probably end up like the Doha round of talks?
Special Envoy: The reason why climate change has entered the agenda of the G20 is because there is a link between energy security and climate change. Energy-related issues are very much the province of the G20. In that sense the linkage is something which is worth looking at from the point of view of the leaders. At the same time, these are 20 of the world’s top leaders who are meeting here. If at their level, without going into the nitty-gritty detail, there is a very clear message which comes across that they are committed to a successful, to an ambitious outcome at Copenhagen, this is a very strong signal to those of us who are actually sitting down in the negotiations. This is the value of the kind of message which may emerge from the G20 not necessarily in terms of this and that specific issue. So, take for example the issue of financing. Unless there is a large scale mobilisation of financial resources, how do we ensure that there is an ambitious outcome? If there is a clear commitment which emerges at G20 that we acknowledge the need for the mobilisation of these large scale resources and we are committed to finding those resources which may be required, that would be a very valuable outcome from the G20. That is the sort of message that we are looking for.
Ambassador Ms. Meera Shankar: If I may add, this is not the main focus of the G20 meeting, as the Special Envoy to PM has said. The main focus will be to review the international economic situation, assess the impact of the measures that various countries have taken for national stimulus plans within their own economies and what impact this has had globally. You have had the Finance Ministers’ meeting in London which came to the conclusion that these had had an impact in terms of moderating the economic recession; and that countries should begin to look at exit strategies but continue these for sometime because there was still uncertainty about the economic situation. They will look at that. They will review the decisions they had taken in London. They will look at the regulatory measures for the financial system which have been discussed. They will look at the whole issue of more representation in the international financial architecture for emerging economies. There are a range of issues on the table. This is one of the issues which they will be looking at. But those discussions are going to take place still tomorrow. Therefore, we are really not in a position to comment on what the outcome would be.
Question: The position is that G20 is not the negotiating forum for the climate change related issues. On the other side there have been lots of reports in different newspapers and media organisations that the UNFCCC as a forum may not be able to clinch a deal on these issues as per the deadline. What do you think will be the way out to stick to the deadline and meet the targets?
Special Envoy: We are very clear in our mind that the only negotiating forum for climate change is in fact the UNFCCC process. Why? Because 20 countries sitting here, or even a smaller number of countries sitting somewhere else, cannot make decisions on behalf of a very large number of other countries who are represented in the UNFCCC. They are also parties to the UN Convention. You cannot say that you take on the right to determine for them because these things are better done in smaller fora with regard to several of these important issues which will impact on them as much as they would impact on us. However, what these fora can do is to facilitate those negotiations to encourage the process of consensus-building, to encourage confidence. Those are the kind of things that can be done. But we have no doubt in our mind that the place where these decisions have to be taken is the multilateral forum. There are challenges, of course. There are a number of issues on which we have not been able to get common views. That is why there is a value to what we are doing here or what we have been doing in the Major Economies Forum or what the Secretary-General has been trying to do in New York. Can we at the political level give a certain impetus, give a certain momentum to those negotiations? Hopefully, on some of the outstanding issues on which we continue to have differences, we will be able to bridge those differences in the time that is remaining. I think that is the perspective in which you should see it.
Question: I know that Indian per capita emissions are much less than China’s. You cannot compare the two. But insofar as there is a tendency to club major developing countries together, do you feel that President Hu Jintao’s commitment or assurance recently that China was willing to accept some kind of non-quantifiable but significant reductions? I think the phrase used was major cuts.
Indian Ambassador in USA: Reduction on the growth of emissions, not absolute emission reduction.
Question: Exactly. It was a new kind of language which certainly India has not spoken yet. Do you feel that this may increase pressure on India to also follow suit? Secondly, I get the sense on the eve of all these multilateral discussions that India gets pushed into a sort of holding operation. There is a huge amount of discussion as to how India is not doing what it needs to do and the entire burden of global discussion seems to be on getting somebody who is contributing actually very little to global emissions, to do more and more. There seems to be much less focus, much less discussion and emphasis on actually getting the major polluters to stick to their commitments embodied in the Framework Convention. Can you give us an insight into the kind of discussions that happened around the table when you are with these powers as to their willingness to engage and actually delivering on their commitments?
Special Envoy: As far as your first question is concerned, I think what China has announced in New York is very much in line with what India has also announced. I think there you are wrong that India has not used that same kind of language. I think what India has very clearly stated on a number of occasions is that while India may not be in a position to take on targets for absolute emission reductions, India has signed on to, along with other major developing countries, bringing about a significant deviation from business as usual emission trajectories provided there is sufficient amount of financial resources and technology transfer which is available. I think what China has been saying is very much in line with the position which China as well as other major developing countries have taken. I will draw your attention to the G5 declaration; I will draw your attention to the L’Aquila declaration. In all those you can find this very clearly reflected. It is not just a Chinese position, this is actually a common position taken by the major developing countries.
Question: Is the Chinese position ...(Inaudible)... by financial requirement?
Special Envoy: Even in our case, after all what have we been saying? There are things that we are able to do within the limitation of our own resources. If we have to do more than that, then we require financial support and technology transfer. If you look at the Chinese statement, there also there is a very clear reference to the need for developed countries to transfer financial resources and technology to developing countries. I do not think there is any difference of opinion in that respect.
As far as why is there a pressure on India, certainly sitting in the negotiating chamber I do not see why we should be defensive at all. As you mentioned, the legal obligation to reduce emissions is really that of the developed countries. What we have been saying is that whatever you were supposed to achieve under those legal obligations you have not been able to achieve. Therefore, for the subsequent period you need to do much more to make for lost time because you yourself are saying, and which we agree with, that we are very close to the tipping point. You cannot say that we are close to the tipping point and then not come up with the kind of reductions which are required. The year 2000 was the year when the developed country emissions should have peaked. They did not peak. Now we are talking about peaking by maybe 2020. We have already lost a lot of time. That is the reason why India, together with a number of other developing countries, has put forward a formal proposal in the negotiations calling for at least a 40 per cent reduction in developed countries’ emissions by 2020 with 1990 as the base year. Only if this kind of a target is actually signed on to would there be credibility to the much higher targets which developed countries say they would be ready to take by the year 2020. Credibility of that target is very much dependent upon what developed countries are ready to do in the interim period. I do not think there is an issue of India being under pressure here. I think we are on a very strong wicket.
Question: A swift clarification on the last point. How much of support do we have for this position of 40 per cent reduction by developed countries by 2020?
Special Envoy: There are 37 developing countries which have signed on to this proposal and which includes all the major developing countries like China, Brazil, South Africa, India, Indonesia. All the major developing countries are represented in that 37, plus a very fairly large representative section of the developing countries.
Question: What is India’s view on market-based instruments for carbon trading?
Special Envoy: As I mentioned to you, what is required under the UNFCCC, and what is also there in the Bali Action Plan, is for a financial mechanism to be set up under the UNFCCC for mobilising and for deploying financial resources to support adaptation as well as mitigation in developing countries. I also mentioned that an adaptation fund on these lines has already been set up under the UNFCCC. So, what we are really looking for is much more resources to be put in the adaptation fund, and also having a major fund which would deal with the mitigation actions in developing countries. Having said that we have no problem with carbon trading; we do not have any problem with mobilisation of resources through other means such as emission trading scheme or through auction of assigned units. There are several such instruments which are available. We have no difficulty with that. But those cannot be taken as the fulfilment of the legal commitment which is there in the UNFCCC. That is our position.
Question: Ambassador Meera Shankar, do you think India suffers from an image problem on the issue of climate change in western countries in general and particularly in America? What I mean is, what looks so obvious from Delhi and Bombay and what hardly needs any explanation or logic or support, it is so debatable here. Mr. Saran, before Copenhagen, do you have any plan for major talks with China or any other Asian countries or developing countries to have a major strategy?
Ambassador Ms. Meera Shankar: I think most countries tend to look at these issues from their perspective. What we see reflected in the US media quite often is the US perspective on climate change. Clearly the Indian position is not as well understood as we would like it to be. But as the Special Envoy to PM said, when we actually sit down in the negotiating or discussion forums like the Major Economies Forum, actually the degree of understanding is more than is reflected sometimes in news reports. In terms of the facts of the situation really, as Siddhartha said, we emit roughly about 1.4 tonnes per capita. Our Prime Minister has said that India is determined that its per capita GHG emissions will never exceed those of the developed countries. That is an incentive for the developed countries also to do more because the lower the level to which they reduce their emissions, the lower would be the threshold that India would undertake not to cross. Then as Special Envoy to PM said, in the meetings at L’Aquila and elsewhere India has indicated that we would be willing to look at how we can reduce the growth of emissions even as we develop. Because of our development requirements, we have to see how we can see that we develop in a way which deviates from business as usual. That is, if in the normal course your emissions would have grown by a factor of ‘x’, can we undertake actions at a national level which would ensure that that growth of emissions is ‘x’ minus?
Special Envoy: Concerning consultations with other developing countries, this is a constant process. In fact, we have very close consultation with all the major developing countries like China, South Africa, Brazil. We have the G5 format in which Mexico is also included. There are the BRIC consultations. So, there are a number of fora where there is a very regular and continuous process of consultation and coordination of our positions. On the sidelines of many of the meetings such as the one which is being held here, there would also be similar kind of coordination. As far as visits are concerned, you are probably aware that our Minister for Environment and Forests visited China recently where he had very extensive discussions with our Chinese friends. I have visited the Maldives to talk to our friends, particularly from the Group of Small Island Developing States. I have also earlier visited Mauritius in the same connection. We have a constant engagement with the United States itself. Whenever I have come to Washington, I also have bilateral meetings with our counterparts in the United States. There is a constant engagement, a very intense engagement which is taking place between India and all its partners, both developed country partners as well as developing country partners.
Special Envoy: In terms of the developing country positions, you will find that much of the positions that we have taken on major issues are the same. Otherwise, how do we come up with G77 plus China submissions? How do we come up with the kind of submission that I mentioned to you. All those are the result precisely of that kind of coordination and consultation. In all the multilateral negotiations that we have, our effort is to try and see whether we can mobilise a consensus position amongst the G77 and China because our interests on certainly the broad issues are very much similar. There may be specific issues by the way where our perspectives may be somewhat different. But on the broad issues, the broad approach, I think we are more or less on the same pitch.
Question: The Japanese Prime Minister made a recent announcement that you would like to have some sort of an IPR understanding to solve the issue of technology transfer on the climate change issue. What is our view about such an IPR understanding? Would we be prepared to apply that to any IPR that India may have in that area? Secondly, you spoke about national communication. Could you explain how you think that is going to play a role in the Copenhagen position that India will be taking?
Special Envoy: The last question first. The issue has come up that even though developing countries need not take absolute emission reduction targets and we acknowledge that developing countries like India, China and others are already doing quite a great deal in terms of climate change action including on mitigation, there must be some way that this should be reflected as part and parcel of the outcome in Copenhagen. In that connection what we have pointed out is that you do not have to look too far because there is already a legal obligation on the part of all countries who are parties to the UNFCCC to submit national communications to the UNFCCC on the basis of certain norms which have been agreed upon, certain guidelines which have been agreed upon, under the IPCC. There could be the need for making those national communications more frequent. Okay, we are willing to look at it. Perhaps these norms need to be revised. Maybe you need more detailed information. Okay, we are willing to look at that. But the requirement that there should be something like a legal instrument through which this reflection should be made, to us, is already available within the UNFCCC itself and, therefore, why not use it. As I mentioned in my opening remarks, this is a position we are finding that people are becoming more receptive to. Hopefully we can take this forward.
Question: And you think this would answer the question about India is not doing enough ...(Inaudible)...
Special Envoy: I do not think that the argument today is India is not doing enough. I think there is a recognition that India actually is doing quite a great deal. But the question is, is India ready to convert whatever it is doing into legally-binding targets under an international instrument? Frankly, the answer is ‘no’. We are not in a position to do that. What we are in a position to do is that whatever we are doing domestically we have no difficulty in transparently reflecting this in an instrument which is already available to us.
With regard to the IPR issue, what we have been saying is, if we all agree that we are facing an elemental threat to humanity, that we are really confronted with an extraordinary challenge represented by climate change, then it seems to us very logical that if there are a whole suite of available climate friendly technologies, as many of the developed countries themselves say are already available, does it not make sense to come up with a global mechanism at Copenhagen through which there can be the most rapid and the most widespread diffusion of these technologies? Secondly, we will probably also need a global mechanism for capacity-building in developing countries. You may have a technology but unless you have to capacity to absorb it, to assimilate it, that technology is of no use. Our view is that with regard to several of those technologies which are already available, let us try and find a mechanism through which we can bring about this wide diffusion accompanied by a capacity-building mechanism as well.
It is in this context that the IPR issue becomes important. If there are these technologies, then unless you adjust the IPR how do you bring about that rapid diffusion? The argument against that is, “Oh! But this will mean that you are harming the interests of the innovator or whoever is holding the IPR. Or you are talking about technology transfer but you know this technology is not available with us governments, it is available with the private sector. How do we ensure that there should be transfer taking place?” We do not think that these are really valid arguments because you can think in terms of a global mechanism where you can actually buy the ideas, or you can lease these ideas, licence them and then make them available to the developing countries as public goods. That is possible as far as we are concerned. Also, it means that if we are looking for creating transformational technologies for the future, can we create a global platform on which developed as well as developing countries can work together so that in ten to fifteen years’ time they can really generate those kinds of transformational technologies. Even though we are a developing country we have some modest scientific and technical resources available. We are willing to bring that to the table. To answer the other part of your question, we have no difficulty in engaging in collaboration which comes up with technologies which can then be distributed as public goods. We have benefited from this in the past ourselves. We have no hesitation in taking that route now as far as climate change is concerned.
Question: If I can turn this around and ask you a question from the ground up, if I am an average Indian citizen and my energy consumption is only modest, actually dismal, what am I being asked to give up? What should I be prepared for? What is my Government going to commit me to do in Copenhagen and thereafter?
Special Envoy: Very simply, no Government in India will commit its citizens to a prospect of not being able to meet the very basic energy requirements that 400 million people in India today confront. This is the argument that we are giving that you cannot separate the issue of action on climate change from the larger developmental context. We are prepared to do whatever is possible. It makes sense for us to do many of these things. But the bottom line is that there should not be an impact on our developmental prospects, on our ability to continue to deal with poverty in our country, to deal with many issues which are survival issues not just issues of lifestyle. This particular aspect is today perhaps better understood outside. When we talk about 400 million Indians not having access to basic energy services, if I can make an effort to meet those requirements to the extent possible, not through burning fossil fuels but through renewable energy, yes, I will try because it makes sense. In many areas in India perhaps taking the grid is not a viable proposition. But distributing for example solar lighting systems, solar heating systems may be a viable alternative. So, we are willing to look at that. Actually we have a plan precisely to spread the use of solar lighting systems in very large parts of rural India. Those are the kinds of things that we are prepared to do. In that respect obviously if there is a favourable global climate regime, it will enable us to do much more than what we can do on our own.
Question: I just want to know whether the developed countries ...(Inaudible)... whether they again made a case for sectoral emission cuts and whether there is a possibility of India ever accepting this demand?
Special Envoy: Let me make it very clear that we have no difficulty in terms of creating a global platform for sharing of best practices on a sectoral basis. For example, whether it is the iron and steel industry or the cement industry, there are best practices in developed countries but by the way there are also best practices in India. There are some very efficient units in India too. There are very efficient iron and steel industries in India as well. We have no problem in terms of placing this on a global platform where we can all benefit from this. But, problem arises when you say, “We are going to set internationally-binding norms for industries; and those who are not up to the norm, in order to bring about some kind of a level-playing field, this could be the basis for, for example, equalising carbon tariffs”. That is the route that we are not ready to travel on. We have to first understand what really is meant by a sectoral approach. Are you talking about a sectoral approach which really involves the sharing of best practices amongst countries? We have no difficulty with that. If you are going to say, “Let us do joint projects for improving energy efficiency in certain areas”, yes, certainly we have no problem with that. We are already doing a joint project with Japan in terms of improving efficiency of coal-based power. That is a very good joint project. But we draw the line when you say, “We cannot agree perhaps on national targets, but can we not agree upon internationally-binding sectoral targets which then be opening the door to protectionism under agreement”, that is not what we are prepared to accept.
Thank you very much, indeed. Thank you.