Clinton Gets an Earful on Emissions Reduction in India

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Indian officials over the weekend to discuss a number of issues, including climate change. India–along with China–is one of the main developing countries insisting that the United States and the developed world get its low-carbon economy in order before asking developing countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

While it was not likely that Clinton would announce a breakthrough agreement with India during her trip, the US press is reporting that the US delegation was struck by the forcefulness of India’s position. Environment Minister, Jairam Ramesh said that there is “no case” for requiring emissions reductions from India.

India believes that it has a strong moral argument given the fact that its per-capita emissions are extremely low and that the West is historically responsible for the problem. After this month’s Major Economies Forum in Italy where Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh endorsed a document stating that global temperatures should be capped at 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels, one of his own negotiators blasted Singh, arguing that the international community will inevitably point to the agreement to demand emissions reductions.

Given the internal strife in India over the issue, Ramesh’s comments could be seen as an effort to placate domestic dissenters. Clinton herself tried to put a positive spin on the meetings, indicating that the discussions in general were “fruitful.”

These types of internal disputes should not be discounted–especially in the case of India where the argument that any binding emissions reductions on their part are inequitable runs deep.

Obama clearly sees India as a major player on a number of issues, including climate. One positive that came out of Clinton’s trip was the scheduling of a visit to the US by Prime Minister Singh on November 22–two weeks before the international climate change negotiations get under way in Copenhagen. It will be the first state visit of the Obama Administration.