Why India Gets the Blame, China the Praise

Bali (Indonesia)
China and India are both fighting climate disaster in their own ways, but the former is smarter when it comes to talking about it.

The result - India is being seen here as a hard-line nation that is against the Bali roadmap to fight climate change in a post-2012 world, while China is getting all the kudos.

As the Dec 3-14 UN climate change conference reaches the halfway stage, many of the over 10,000 delegates from 187 countries are wondering what India is up to. India is one of the few big countries without a delegation office, and most government delegates usually tell the media they are not allowed to talk. At best, they react when India is criticised in public.

The message going out from India here: it will fight any attempt to place any target on developing countries to cap their emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) that lead to climate change because such a target will harm its development process.

China says the same thing, but says it very differently. It starts by saying: of course China will play a major role in fighting climate change. It has already done a lot. But in order to do more, it needs help, just like other developing countries. Almost as an afterthought, it says: there should be no GHG emission targets on developing countries. And even that it says through the G-77 plus China platform.

As a matter of fact, India has earmarked 2.5 percent of its GDP to adapt to climate change during the 11th five-year plan (2007-2012), higher than any other country. India has a large number of projects promoting energy efficiency and renewable energy sources. But few people outside the country know about this.

The steps taken by China so far to fight climate change are similar. But the Chinese government outlined its national climate change programme early June and set itself some targets, which India has failed to do despite setting up a prime minister's task force on climate change.

Media reports say the task force met Nov 26 to discuss a position paper that the country would have at the Bali summit, and there the politicians rejected the paper prepared by the bureaucrats because it did not say anything concrete about what India planned to do to fight climate change. At that stage, it was too late to prepare another paper.

So the Indian government delegation has come here with a list of laws and policies that improve energy efficiency and promote renewable energy sources. The list was prepared by a Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) task force, whose report goes on to seek a number of policy measures from the government but is largely silent on what even the private sector plans to do to fight climate change.

Contrast this with China, which has clearly outlined the main goals in its national climate change programme - 15 percent of total energy to be generated through renewable sources by 2020; 20 percent improvement in energy efficiency by 2010; and increase in forest cover to 20 percent by 2010.

The Chinese government has also announced it will close down 50 GW of its most-pollution coal-fired power plants, without committing to a deadline on that.

China already has fuel efficiency standards more stringent than in the US, Canada or Australia.

Now India already has a forest cover of over 20 percent, its energy efficiency goals are impressive and so are the many schemes to promote renewable energy sources. Its Euro III fuel efficiency standards are also more stringent than in the US, Canada or Australia.

But few people outside the country know about it. When this is pointed out to Indian bureaucrats here by Indian NGOs, they reply: why should we bother to tell them?

(Joydeep Gupta can be contacted at


More by :  Joydeep Gupta

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