India has announced to set up a fund to assist South Asian countries to adapt to the challenges of the changing climate. The 16th South Asian Association on Regional Cooperation (SAARC) held at Thimphu, Bhutan had the theme ‘Towards a Green and Happy South Asia’. Heads of governments of eight South Asian countries took part in this summit which focused on environmental issues.
SAARC was established on December 8, 1985 by Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Pakistan. Sri Lanka, Nepal and Maldives; Afghanistan was later added as a member. In terms of population it is the largest regional cooperation forum in the world with a combined population of about 1.5 billion. In addition these eight members, there are nine observers to the forum including China, the European Union and the United States.
India is the dominant member of the forum and it demonstrated its dominance by leading from the front on the issue of climate change. The Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh projected the adaptation fund as a ‘gift’ to the member nations as he announced the ‘India Endowment for Climate Change in South Asia’. He also proposed to set up regional climate innovation centres in South Asia in order to stimulate research and development in clean and sustainable energy technologies which the members nations can have easy access to.
India eyeing strategic dominance
Being the only major economic and military power in the forum India would like to use this forum in order to proliferate its dominance and counter the sphere of influence that China has in Africa and even in some of the member nations. While announcing the climate change adaptation fund the Indian Prime Minister also announced that he would like to see SAARC as an unified front at the international climate treaty negotiations.
India faced tremendous pressure during the run-up to the Copenhagen Climate Summit last year. The European Union and the United States called upon the Indian government to announce unilateral mandatory carbon emission reduction targets. However, the Indian government refused to budge on the issue even when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton requested the Indian government to reconsider its position of opposing mandatory emission reducing targets for developing countries. India maintained its per capita carbon emissions were among the lowest in the world (1/20th that of the US) and are not likely to increase to the ‘developed countries levels’ ever in the future.
Come December, India will once again face the pressure of agreeing to carbon emission targets and that is when this investment of the SAARC climate adaptation fund would bear fruits. Maldives already looks at India as a major player in the global climate change political tussle and by offering financial and technical assistance to other members it can ensure increased support to its position against emission targets.
Additionally, by donating potentially millions of dollars to its neighbors India could reduce its liability towards the international climate adaptation fund for which the EU wants contributions from the advanced developing countries such as Brazil, India and China.
Further, the issue of technology transfer and intellectual property rights pertaining to new clean energy technologies was one of the major issues of contention in the climate treaty negotiations. India floated the idea of setting up regional innovation centres for stimulating R & D in affordable renewable energy technologies. By setting up such a centre in the country itself India could possibly gain significant control over any new technologies invented.
China has been facing immense pressure from the developed countries since it surpassed the US as the largest emitter of carbon emissions. At one point, during the last year, there was a strong possibility of China agreeing to cut its carbon emissions following bilateral negotiations with officials in the Bush and the Obama administration. However the international pressure made China only to pledge non-binding reduction in carbon intensity ahead of the COP15. This move was a surprise to the Indian government which had, along with the Chinese government, strongly opposed any voluntary emission reductions unless the developed countries agreed to mandatory emission reduction targets. Subsequently, India announced similar targets.
This move would strengthen India’s position at the negotiations as it would reflect its efforts to help providing affordable renewable energy technologies to the developing and poor countries which would not only be a great PR exercise but would also help dodge pressure of stricter emission reduction measures.
Source: The Hindu
The views presented in the above article are author’s personal views and do not represent those of TERI/TERI University where the author is currently pursuing a Master’s degree.