Carbon-emissions targets set at Copenhagen seem unlikely to be
reached, given America's political realities. That makes developing
nations less eager to meet their own goals.
India and China have released more details about how they intend
to combat global climate change. From India's perspective, the ball
is now in the United States' court.
For years, international climate talks have been caught in a
stalemate. The US claims that India and China are not being asked to
sacrifice; the two emerging powers say the US, as a major polluter,
must cut back so others can be lifted from poverty.
India and China's recent commitments to action put pressure on
the US to join a legally binding climate treaty. But Indian
environmentalists - eyeing the election of a GOP senator in
Massachusetts and President Obama's State of the Union address and
his efforts in Copenhagen, Denmark - are skeptical the move will
prompt serious US measures.
"The general feeling within the government is that [the accord]
will break the stalemate and we will have a real outcome," says
Chandra Bhushan, associate director of the Center for Science and
Environment (CSE), a Delhi think tank that advises the Indian
government on climate policy. "I'm not that optimistic ... the
numbers don't add up."
Those numbers refer to pledges made by the nations involved in
the Copenhagen Accord recently hammered out in Denmark. Countries
were urged to submit plans by Jan. 31 to cut greenhouse-gas
emissions, though the deadline was flexible and the pledges
At press time, China and India were expected to release plans
shortly. If those put forth specific targets, they were expected to
fall along the lines publicly stated prior to the Copenhagen summit.
For India, that means a reduction of 20 to 25 percent in emissions
intensity per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2020 compared
with 2005 levels. China has spoken of a 40 to 45 percent reduction.
The trouble, says Mr. Bhushan, lies with the numbers from
developed countries, which fall far below the longer-range goals of
the Kyoto Protocol. The US has offered a cut in overall emissions of
4 percent below 1990 levels (or 17 percent from 2005 levels, which
the US announced Jan. 29).
"You are talking about [global] emission reductions of 5 to 5.5
percent in 2020 [from] 1990 levels - maybe 7 percent maximum. What
you need is at least 30 percent," says Bhushan. Under Kyoto, cuts
have to reach 80 percent by 2050.
Both the Indian government and environmentalists here are
concerned that the effort at Copenhagen to break the deadlock by
showing everyone's hand will translate into a de facto, watered-
down international agreement replacing Kyoto.
India's environmental minister, after meetings last week with his
Brazilian, South African, and Chinese counterparts - the BASIC bloc -
emphasized that the Copenhagen Accord should only be seen as "input"
into an ongoing negotiation process set out under Kyoto. …