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Rich nations must act on climate first, insists India

Comments from India's environment minister cast doubt on ability of Ban Ki-moon's special summit to break standoff between rich and developing countries

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Tens of thousands of protesters converged on New York on Sunday to call for urgent global action on climate change

Hours before UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon's special summit on climate change kicked off this morning, Indian environment minister Prakash Javadekar told the Major Economies Forum that rich nations should act themselves before demanding action from others, raising doubts about the meeting's ability to break an age-old stand-off between developed and developing countries.

The question of which countries should cut greenhouse-gas emissions first has bogged down climate negotiations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) for over 20 years. Today's informal summit, at which governments were asked to pledge policies for controlling greenhouse-gas emissions, had been called to break the logjam. But there was no indication of any change in the Indian government’s stance.

India's prime minister Narendra Modi was absent from the group of more than 120 heads of state and government present in New York today. However Javedekar, his minister for environment, forests and climate change, reiterated the country's position that the new global climate deal due to be agreed in Paris next year would have to be within UNFCCC principles. “The basic principles and provisions of the convention will apply,” he said, referring to the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. This places the principal onus for cutting greenhouse-gas emissions on rich nations, which are responsible for most of the carbon dioxide put in the atmosphere since the start of the Industrial Age. 

The increasing concentration of greenhouse gases – mainly carbon dioxide – is changing the climate, and already affecting farm output worldwide, making droughts, floods and storms more frequent and more severe, and raising the sea level.

Rich nations, led by the US, are in favour of mitigation actions by all countries, especially emerging economies like China and India, since China is now the world’s largest emitter, the US second and India third. New data released this week showed that China now emits more than the EU and US combined.

Javadekar also categorically ruled out any international oversight of the actions India may take to control emissions. “Any review of domestically determined contributions would not be acceptable in many countries including India,” he said. The European Union has been particularly keen on a legally binding treaty that would include international oversight of actions taken.

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