Chandrashekhar Dasgupta, a Distinguished Fellow at TERI, writes a sensible op-ed in Business Standard on India and Climate Change.

Climate change is not a big issue in India at this point in time. The sheer size of the poverty issue overrides any other program. Combine that with the economic development policies, foreign policy (e.g. Kashmir issue), internal terrorism (e.g. the Maoists) and it is clear that climate change is not on the top of the agenda. This is rightly so.

In this op-ed, Dasgupta outlines the issue of climate change, the IPCC report, effect on India and possible policy actions.

He points out that “the wealthy, industrialised countries are responsible for causing climate change, the main victims will be the world’s poor. Developing countries are more vulnerable because they lack the financial and technological resources needed to cope with and adapt successfully to climate change”.

In this scenario, the first task of the government is adaptation and this can only be based on rapid, sustained development and poverty eradication.

Adaptation will require a wide range of responses, including a shift to drought resistant plant varieties, economical use of water resources, water conservation measures, watershed management, protection of coastlines and disaster management. Low-income countries will be unable to implement these measures on an adequate scale.

The second goal is to moderate the use of greenhouse gases through measures which will be economically beneficial and the funds are not diverted from poverty reduction and economic development needs. This is important because funds for development are scarce in India.

There are many areas where such possibilities exist. Cost-effective energy saving and energy efficiency programmes serve our development goals and also result in lowering emissions. Policies designed primarily to reduce local environmental pollution (such as the substitution of diesel by cleaner fuel in some of our major cities) can also lead to reduced greenhouse gas emissions. The promotion of nuclear, wind and solar power not only serves our energy security interests but also results in lower greenhouse gas emissions. In all these cases, measures designed primarily to promote our developmental objectives also yield important co-benefits for climate change mitigation.

Additional programs can be achieved through the Kyoto Clean Development Mechanism and Joint Implementation.

According to Dasgupta, the third leg of the strategy should concentrate on managing the rising expectations of industrialized nations to force India to cut down on its emissions.

If the demands of these developed countries are conceded, funds will be diverted from our national priority goals of development, poverty eradication and progress on local environmental issues like air and water quality. The rate of growth of the economy will be slowed down, with the result that India will remain highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

To counter the argument of high greenhouse gases emitted by India due to its population he suggests a analogy based on food consumption.

This is like arguing that India should restrict its food consumption because its total calorie consumption is very large, even though the per capita intake is inadequate! India’s per capita carbon emissions are only one-eighth that of the EU and one-twentieth that of the US. The total figure is high only because India is a very large and populous country, with a population exceeding the combined total of the US, the European community, Russia and Japan.

As with everything in India, population exacerbates the climate change issue.