Is India’s clean-energy drive beneficial?

New Delhi, August 1:

India’s decision to join a new US-driven six-nation Asia-Pacific environmental grouping on clean development has stirred a debate on New Delhi’s commitment to controlling global warming as enshrined in the Kyoto protocol. New Delhi has maintained that this new partnership is consistent with and contributes to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and complements the Kyoto protocol- a global treaty designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “The Americans may have their own agenda. But we stand to gain with easier access to green technologies that the US can provide us,” foreign secretary Shyam Saran said. India joined hands with the US, Australia, China, Japan, and South Korea to form the new partnership on Clean Development and Climate Change on the sidelines of the ASEAN Regional Forum meeting in Laos on Thursday.

This partnership, they say, will help each country to improve energy security, reduce pollution, and address the long-term challenge of climate change by encouraging the use of energy-efficient technologies like civil nuclear power and bio-power. Sunita Narain, a prominent environmentalist, however articulates anxieties instigated by the accord among environmentalists. “It’s not a good move. India shouldn’t have succumbed to the US design

to create a parallel process to the Kyoto protocol. The new arrangement will end up undermining India’s commitment to control global warming to which we are most vulnerable,”

Narain said. While 140 countries, including India, have ratified the Kyoto protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the US and Australia have not ratified it, arguing that that the protocol did not require developing countries to adopt emission targets between 2008 and 2012.

“Let’s not fool ourselves. US president Bush is simply not serious about climate change,” says Narain, director of the Centre for Science and Environment. She blames unreasonable policies

of the European Union for driving India and China into the arms of the US — one of the biggest polluters and leading opponent of the Kyoto protocol. Uttam Sinha, an expert on global

warming, agrees that it’s a clever move by the US but he doesn’t share Narain’s anxieties. On the contrary, he argues that the new group if used in a proper way can provide India access to clean technologies. “It has taken us all by surprise. It’s a clever move by the US to involve us in its larger geo-strategic agenda in Asia, but the new grouping can actually be more effective in helping us to access clean technologies,” says Sinha. Agrees Ajay Lele, a senior research fellow with the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, who argues that the new grouping brings together the industrial giants of Asia, which accounts for over 40 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, and hence may prove to be more effective in the long run.

“These countries are trying to adopt a parallel track. I don’t see any harm in it. On the contrary, this will activate India’s quest for cleaner, energy-efficient technologies,” he says,

“Besides, India is not supporting the American agenda; it is backing cleaner development.” He sees in the new partnership a fresh opportunity for India to lobby the US for cleaner technologies, including nuclear power. “In terms of larger strategic partnership with the US, we can actually gain if we play our cards right. Most importantly, it can initiate an environment-conscious energy technology,” says Sinha, who has authored a dissertation on the politics of global warming. Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh stressed on the transfer of clean technologies at the summit of the world’s eight wealthiest nations at the Scottish resort of Gleaneagles early this month.