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India Seeks Help Building Low-CO2 Future

Date: 30-Jul-09
Country: INDIA
Author: David Fogarty and Krittivas Mukherjee

NEW DELHI - India's booming economy has huge potential to shift to a low-carbon future but needs a little hand-holding by rich nations to keep it on the right path, a top Indian climate change negotiator said.

About 500 million Indians, or about half the population, do not have access to electricity and relying on fossil fuels such as coal to expand the power grid was unsustainable and unwise, Dinesh Patnaik told Reuters in an interview.

India needed to follow a different development path than rich nations' heavy reliance on coal, oil and gas.

"If we continue the same way as they (developed countries), there are not enough fossil fuels. So we have to grow in a more efficient way," he said.

"Just imagine if we can provide those 500 million people with electricity which does not use fossil fuels? What a huge achievement."

But he said India needed technology and resources to become more efficient or run the risk of deploying cheaper coal-fired power in the short-term. He pointed to coal-fired power costing 2.5 rupees per kilowatt/hour, versus 5 rupees for wind and 10 for solar.

"All we're asking is that in this endeavor hold our hand while we're growing so that we can achieve our growth and not be derailed by a lack of resources and technology."

Recognizing the huge potential from solar, the government has made this a centerpiece of its climate change policy and is set to unveil in September a target of generating 20 gigawatts of electricity using solar energy by 2020.

HUMMERS TO FIESTAS

Patnaik, joint-secretary in the foreign ministry, also urged rich nations to rein in conspicuous consumption as part of a global effort to fight climate change.

"When someone in the U.S. has to make a sacrifice it goes from a Hummer to a (Ford) Fiesta. For us, it's the difference between having a meal and not eating or a house with electricity and no electricity."

Developing nations, led by China, now emit more than half of mankind's greenhouse gas emissions and getting them to commit to reductions is seen by rich nations as crucial to agreeing a broader climate pact at U.N. talks at the end of the year.

Patnaik said rich nations needed to do much more in pledging funds for climate change adaptation in poorer nations as well as ways to reduce their emissions and to give them the technology to cut their carbon pollution.

"We have to move to a low-carbon path. All we're asking is give us the technology and the implementing financing," he said, adding that while economic growth was 7-8 percent, India's emissions growth rate was 3-4 percent because of existing energy efficiency steps.

But the problem was that financing from wealthy nations would only come in "if they see an advantage."

"Developed countries have been giving the excuse that they would not be able to raise taxes to provide deep funds that are required.

"What we have been saying is that if you have to rely on private finance then the only way to do it is to take higher emission reduction targets in the range of more than 40 percent by 2020 (from 1990 levels)."

In return, private firms are given tax incentives to invest in developing nations for low-carbon projects.

This would lead to significant sums in carbon finance and investment in clean-energy technology, Patnaik added.

"The point is that a high level of emissions reductions with offsets in developing nations would bring in technology, finance and mitigation all together."

(Editing by Nick Macfie)

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