Whats on agenda at Copenhagen?

With the considerable discussions on COP15 arising out of the meetings at Bangkok, Bonn, Barcelona and elsewhere and a global community engaging in the debates and following it through the net, I am left wondering what exactly is it that we will be discussing at Copenhagen?

Especially what will India be speaking and expecting? Will it be India’s stand of the developed world taking stringent emission cuts? Will it be KP beyond 2012? Will it be common but differentiated responsibility? Continuing with Annex I Annex II definitions?

If the US absolutely refuses to do things as we expect it to then are we going to keep it as a sore point which takes our whole focus or will we say chuck the whole world, we will work within our borders to become the one developing country which did the best with the resources available to us?

Is it not high time that we realized the futility of a talk on emissions control at two levels –

At one are we going to be discussing emission cuts and improving lifestyles side by side? Is one possible with the other? I am yet to see a rigorous debate on a paradigm shift which questions the very fundamentals of our developmental paradigm. I read news articles which have lines like

“The broader social and moral questions about coal are vexed ones. How do we weigh the potentially catastrophic effects of climate change against the desire of developing countries to achieve standards of living that the West has achieved by using cheap electricity and steel?”


Can the discussion at Copenhagen be about realising that if everybody or even half the current population had the standards of living which the West has achieved, then possibly there will be a time sometime in 2110 (I am counting BAU, without any of the dire climate change projections happening) when the population has reached 9 billion, and half of that or 4.5 billion has been guzzling oil and gas and coal at West standards, when suddenly there has to come a time – this is pure maths without any dire exaggerated environmental outburst – when all of oil and gas and coal will be finished.

In such a scenario if we haven’t given sufficient thought a few decades in advance to preparing people to live happily and wholesomely a life and lifestyle, which is not the current Western one, dependent on only high carbon to provide satisfaction, then we will see a scenario where one moment people are driving the best of air conditioned sedans and working in sophisticated offices, and partying an vacationing at great locations and then in another decade everybody is living like the tribals, of the land, trying (trying because they never planned for what was to come) to surviving on decentralized food supply, and in a completely depressed state of existence, large amount of population dying because they bodies cannot bio-chemically adjust to the new situation.

Second, if it is sufficiently proven that technologies like CSP can provide the electricity needed to provide lifestyles like the West for everybody in India and China, then great lets party and see which vested industry lobby is stopping the transition and go one-point at a time to ensuring the whole of India (and China and the world) moves to CSP fed lifestyles by 2030.


Then what is the point of discussing emissions? Why worry about what America does or doesn’t, KP or not, common but differentiated or not? Are resources really a problem? If India just restructures it leaking and completely illogical subsidy structures then we could be in a position to fund projects in our neighboring countries. So the question of requiring funds from the West is gone. Are we going to have the guts to take leadership on dismantling our subsidies and creating resources within the country for everything from efficient and intelligent public transport to a spread of renewable like never before?

Today a completely venal political leadership which with vested narrow minded business interests has taken complete control of India’s climate change agenda discussion.And most in the country just do not have the guts to handle this coalition –  hitting at America is kids play. We are only talking about the faults of others to hide the enormous defects inside. I would much rather have a position where we are correcting our defects irrespective of what the west does or not. And we would be doing this  if we innately cared and were responsible. But our country and its people are no less irresponsible than those we point fingers at.

Are we talking technology for doing all this? I thought we had the best brains in the world? And anyways when we have the money from the source above then we can import the best solutions. Why are ‘we’ (the we is tricky because it may be the vested interests masquerading as speaking on behalf of one billion Indians) looking for charity from the West, by emotional blackmail on their historical emissions record. Can we, like the Australian viewpoint in the article above look at taking a leadership position?

A third important point of discussion will have to be a paradigm shift at the level of human beings who comprise the human species. Will people continue to live in a current paradigm where selfishness and greed and apathy about the community rule or will we move to an educated class which sees education not just as a means to high paying jobs and then high carbon lifestyles (and this has and continues to remain big in India , a whole family co-ordinated operation) but which reads material beyond their degree seeking text books and understands linkages in the much flaunted Vasudhiava Kutumbakam. How many in India have that feeling for the country also – forget the world?

The discussion at Copenhagen will have to be less about emissions and more about values then. Once we have the common and shared (not differentiated) values in place then emissions will automatically restore themselves. When the fresh into a high-paying job 25 year old in America and India will accept paying a higher tax on his vehicle, will accept a much higher electricity tariff for his/her favorite lounge bar, the additional resources from which help solar electrify a  village at a time, and numerous other such segments would have given similar thoughts, then we would have moved to a world where we would have sorted our not just climate change but MDGs and a hundred other problems.

But until the quality of the human being itself is bad, the situation is like high ash high sulphur content coal. If you burn it you will get sulphurdioxide and ash. As long as an irresponsible humans bides 60 years or more on earth we will have emissions, accept it and face the consequences, shut the COP shops and let everyone be on their own.

The Pied Pipers of India

I have been reading intensely (not as much quantitatively as much as I would have wanted to) on the climate change negotiations leading to Copenhagen and various other related topics like technology and the legislation’s being proposed.

I would maybe not express myself as I find below, had I found some credible amount of diversity in India’s positions on climate change as I find in many of the Tier – I industrialized countries (developed in popular lingo). Almost all of the discussion on climate change in India displays a lack of deep research and creative thinking. Almost every article in mainstream papers seems like some kind of a copy paste kaleidoscope. The more dominant ones display a hard headed thinking or smack of a clear vested interest influence. In fact most of the efforts in India are being financed by vested industry interests. Independent thinkers – and I would count myself as one – live a life so starved of resources that I even wonder why I take the trouble of writing right now.

Also its time we stopped calling ourselves a developing country (Tier II industrialized would be my lingo). We should call ourselves so only if we allow the real poor and backward people drive the India negotiations. All the India climate change negotiations are being led by Indians who know English better than the Queen, are more well versed with worldly issues than the average American and yet call themselves developing.

A hard headed way of thinking and approaching an issue is integral to India. You see it everywhere; people can’t do 360 degree thinking, cannot quickly create or respond to new scenarios, think creative solutions, accept mistakes and make amends. The result clearly is that once we take a position we end up we remain wedded to it, for good or worse, mostly worse.

Socialism was failing us by the late 60’s itself but we dragged it for two decades more. The country’s thinking was firmly in the hands of a few hard headed mono-visioned people. The millions (hundreds of) who make up India are like the rats who followed Pied Piper.

Most in India didn’t care much about what was going on which, lead to 1991, did not participate in bring about that change and then hardly blinked an eye lid before a transition and new generation passed the goodies through their digestive tracks. And it is on the strong shoulders of these indifferent people that Ministers stash of billions of dollars to Swiss Bank accounts by just keeping the dope of cricket and cinema flowing liberally. In this dreary desert has my country awoken and tries to lead G-77 on climate change.

The hard headed are generally the best at making coalitions and taking charge and in ensuring resources to feed their operations.

And in the climate change dialogue and in India’s ‘official’  – and more importantly the more vocalized – positions it clearly is not one but a whole troupe of Pied Pipers who are leading millions of rats to heaven. Millions of educated Indians (not those ‘disgusting’ beggarly brown skinned non-english speaking types) are brazenly unaware of what is climate change, those who are aware are no different in initiative from the generation which partnered in India’s downfall during the socialism years.

Millions go about completely unmoved by the need to address the more pressing and immediate issues facing the country. Poverty, the overwhelming corruption, being short-changed at every level of the government. May be that is also an element of the ‘more superior’ Indian intelligence and spiritualism, which understands that one day climate change will anyways square it all of so what is the point of engaging oneself in all these issues.

And it is from such a country that some have the gall to take a moral high ground by saying blatant lies about how India’s development will be affected by emission caps, these pied pipers ask about cash and technology transfers, while home talent is frustrated and denied opportunities to even implement good laws which already exist and are observed more in their neglect.

Some recent interesting international articles I read, which came as a break in the intellectually starved media reports in India.

The lucky country needs to act responsibly on climate

A wonderful dispassionate, objective and ethical look at their own position.

Old King Coal

Lack of global climate deal won’t crush green tech

India’s super stupid position on climate change

Response to Down to Earth editorial


Dear Sunita,

Another nice but particularly stirring editorial, which moves one to respond. I am sure you agree but as the heading for this post goes, I think India really has a very bad position on climate change. I have been of the opinion for a good many years now and only now getting to write about it. This post is not about your editorial alone but the general Indian position that the developed world needs to do a lot more before India will do something.

While there is truth in your castigation of the developed countries, I think the single biggest point of contention I have with you is about your statement Fact remains our constraint is the making of the rich world.”

The same has been the pathetic, sympathy seeking stance of the government of India for the past whatever years, a fig leaf over its complete disregard for taking a responsible position.

I think each and every constraint of ours is of our own making. In fact I would go ahead to say that our ability  to make constraints for ourselves is in fact responsible for the constraints of many other developing countries and also developed countries. Which in essence means that we have for half a decade been in a situation where we could have shown leadership on many issues thus paving the way for many others to emulate.

I get reminded about numerous small to big decisions which have a clear impact on climate change and resource consumption where there is absolutely no application of mind from an environmental perspective in India.

Smaller roads and streets in Mumbai are being paved with paver blocks made from cement. Previously the roads were made from asphalt bitumen and would keep developing potholes, arguably because of flooding but mainly because of corruption which leads to compromise in quality. All this while I am aware of well made asphalt roads in Mumbai itself which have easily lasted a decade. While I don’t have the number here but cement clearly must be having more embodied CO2 and accordingly the decision to pave the streets with millions of paver blocks is completely anti-climate change? No discussion in the city about this.

The Bombay Municipal Corporation saw great revenues in the past few years as a result of the economic boom and so the councilors decided to have a splurge. How much discussion on climate change takes place in the BMC? Now we will head for a recession, revenues will go down and then we will look for doles from developed countries. Squander your wealth and then beg in the streets of Switzerland?

Very much linked to the issue is what we do with the huge amount of construction debris we generate. Since 2003 I am aware of perfectly sound processes to convert the debris into BIS quality paver blocks. But the Municipal Corporation and authorities keep side stepping the issue. In the past 5 years massive amount of debris has been generated and disposed off (many in sensitive coastal ecosystems) which could have been reiutilised if not for roads then footpaths.

Another issue is of waste disposal. We continue to follow a super stupid method of pick and dump – thus running millions of truck trips every years, generating emissions, besides landfill emissions. All this could have been changed. But the SWM department is alleged to be the most lucrative thus inhibiting any progressive move. All this while 100s of people wait with alternate solutions and thousands of green jobs would be created by following decentralised and intelligent means.

These examples are just for supporting evidence. There could easily be a hundred such areas where your statement does not apply – Fact remains our constraint is the making of the rich world.”

I keep reading of the approximately 1.5 trillion dollars of Indian money stashed in Swiss Banks and wonder where is the funds shortage? Maybe we do not deserve a rap from the developed countries but we deserve a rap all the same – an even harder one from within.

The BIG constraint is in our intention.

I think that the time has come to substantially disengage from an ‘only global’ engagement policy and come to a very strong local engagement policy whereby we don’t wait for the Bali’s and Poznan’s and Copenhagen’s but are very strongly engaged within the country to coordinate efforts towards mitigating climate change. How often have we engaged meaningfully within the country to discuss climate change mitigation? How many of our bureaucrats and politicians understand or show the inclination to solve even the most basic of our problems – leave aside climate change. I have somewhere completely lost interest in what developed countries do or do not.

Hope you agree to some degree and consider it worthwhile to carry my views in the next issue.