Durban: Amid pressure on India to agree to a legally binding commitment to cut green house gas emission, New Delhi on Wednesday defended its policy, saying it had "a very small carbon footprint" and was implementing ambitious energy efficiency programmes.
Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan, who is leading the Indian delegation at the 12-day talks under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Durban, on Wednesday attempted to convince gathered negotiators that India needs to continue on the development tracks along with battling climate change crisis.
"We are a large country but with a very small carbon footprint. Our per capita emission is only 1.7 tonnes per annum," said Natarajan.
"Our modeling studies show that, even in 2030, with a growth rate of 8-9 per cent per annum, our per capita emissions will not exceed 3.7 tonnes," she underlined.
"Our Prime Minister has already stated that we will follow a growth path that will help us remain sustainable and not emulate the fossil fuel-intensive growth path followed by developed countries in the past," Natarajan added.
The minister talked extensively about India's National Action Plan on Climate Change, including the target of generating 20,000 MW of solar power by 2020.
"We are doing this in phases, so that the market develops and costs come down," she said.
The minister underlined that India was implementing ambitious energy efficiency programmes.
"In 2003, it used to take about 190 grams of oil to produce a dollar of GDP," she said, adding "Now, we need only about 140 grams in 2009 a sharp decrease of about 30 per cent in 6 years."
This week, the high-level segment of the climate talks kicked off in Durban where government negotiators and ministers from 194 countries have gathered to agree on the next steps for combating climate change.
Developments over the past week, however, indicate deep divisions between developed and developing nations especially on the obligations to reduce carbon emissions.
The talks have been hamstrung by a row over the future of the Kyoto Protocol. Under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, 37 developed countries have been placed under international legal obligations to reduce carbon emissions during a first commitment period, which expires next year.
Some countries like Japan and Canada are withdrawing from the treaty, citing it ineffective because it leave out the bulk of carbon emission produced by China, India and the United States.
The EU is willing to sign up for a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol if emerging economies also agree to take binding carbon emissions cuts in the future.
India has said that it will consider a legally binding treaty post-2020, provided developed nations fulfil "fundamental imperatives" in areas of mitigation, finance and technology as well as addressing concerns of equity, unilateral trade barriers and intellectual property rights.
"It is very important that, in Durban, a clear and ratifiable decision on KP second commitment period takes place," the minister said.
"We hope that this legally valid agreement to which all of us are parties will not be allowed to lapse due to inaction by some parties," she underlined.