Statement by Shri T.R. Baalu, Minister of Environment & Forests, Government of India

(Fifth Session of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change at Bonn on November 02, 1999)


Mr. President, Excellencies and distinguished delegates,

At the outset, I wish to congratulate you on your election as President of the Fifth Conference of Parties. We assure you whole-hearted cooperation of the Indian delegation in your efforts to guide the Conference to a productive session. I convey our sincere appreciation to the government of Germany for hosting this Conference. I would also like to express our appreciation for the untiring efforts of the Convention Secretariat under the able leadership of its Executive Secretary, Mr. Michael Zammit-Cutajar.

The Fourth Conference of Parties last year adopted the Buenos Aires Plan of Action. The Plan provides a road-map for working on the decisions and indicative time-lines for the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol. Sustainable progress is to be achieved by the Sixth Conference of Parties. We believe that the current meeting in Bonn will pave the way for the attainment of this objective.

The Framework Convention on Climate Change explicitly underlined conspicuous North-South disparities through the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities". The principle of equity underpins the convention which differentiates the levels of commitments for the developed and the developing countries. The Convention acknowledges that development and poverty eradication are the first and over-riding priorities of the developing countries, consequent to which their greenhouse gas emissions would grow. In our current work, there must be no discounting of the inequities, disparities and differentiated capabilities between the North and the South. There must also not be any freezing, perpetuating or exacerbating of existing inequities between the developed and the developing countries as a consequence of any of our decisions. The right to development of the developing countries must not be affected adversely in any way.

Our work on the Kyoto mechanisms should address and settle comprehensively the basic principles at the outset to enable progress. Once the basic principles and the nature and scope of the mechanisms are decided, it would be possible to address the methodological, operational and institutional issues accordingly. The integrity, effectiveness and environmental credibility of the mechanisms must be above board. It must be ensured that domestic policies and measures by the developed countries remain the principal means for stabilizing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases. Domestic initiatives should not get eclipsed by action overseas through the provisions of the Protocol. The design of the mechanisms must not in any way compromise the modification of longer-term trends in emissions, consistent with the objectives of the Convention. The emissions reduction achieved should be real and verifiable.

Priority is to be given to the Clean Development Mechanism in conformity with the decision at Buenos Aires. The difference in the nature and scope, purpose and participation of the three mechanisms should be kept in constant view. With regard to the CDM, it needs to be reiterated that only the host governments can decide whether a particular project conforms to their national sustainable development priorities. They would also be best placed to decide on the choice of areas and technologies for developing the CDM projects.

Considerable significance has been attached to the need for capacity-building of the developing countries. The build-up of endogenous expertise is essential for the identification of technology needs and helping enhance capacities for assimilation of technologies. Capacity-building is also required for assisting the developing countries for carrying out adaptation activities.

The developing countries are major victims of the adverse effects of climate change; India is no exception. Indiaís per capita greenhouse gas emissions are many times below the world average, and, of course, far lower than the average of developed countries. Nevertheless, we have pursued policies for conserving energy and promotion of renewable energy. We have raised the conversion efficiency of our power plants. Industries are reducing their energy intensity by cutting production costs. New fiscal policies are promoting low-emission technologies. In the automobile sector too, new technologies and corresponding regulations are reducing emissions. In the field of non-conventional energy sources, we have attained the much-acclaimed success in the installation of solar and wind-generated energy. While coal will continue to be the mainstay of commercial energy, there has been fuel-switching to oil and natural gas. In the agricultural sector, there is emphasis on replacement of fuel-inefficient irrigation pump-sets. In this manner, India has been responding to the challenges of sustainable development, which is also contributing to modification of longer-term trends in greenhouse gas emissions.

In India, public awareness about issues related to climate change is growing. Environmental matters are getting articulated effectively in India through a vigilant media and an active NGO community. Significantly, the judicial process has recognised the citizenís right to a clean environment as a component of the right to life and liberty.

Even as we discuss several aspects of the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol, we should not lose sight of the fact that the developed countries have, by and large, fallen far short of fulfilling their commitments under the Convention for reduction of emissions. On the contrary, the latest available data indicate that many developed countries have registered substantial increases in their emissions in recent years. Also, there has hardly been any progress in transfer of technology and provision of financial resources to the developing countries, in accordance with the provision of the Convention. The developing countries have demonstrated their commitment to deal with the threat of climate change. We have also been participating actively in the process. References to voluntary commitments and meaningful participation by the developing countries only serve to detract from the lack of progress in emission reductions by developed countries in conformity with the commitments undertaken by them in the Convention and the Protocol. This situation ought to be put right. The issue of climate change should continue to be addressed in a frame of reference that puts equity and redistributive justice at the centre of our efforts, and measures human welfare directly.

Thank you, Mr. President.