"The North has not kept its commitments on technology transfer"
India has been increasingly under pressure from the North to reduce her carbondioxide emissions. But many of the developed countries have not done enough to cut down their own emission levels. Doesn't this expose the North's double standards?
We have called for a differentiated but common responsibility among the countries for reduction of carbondioxide emissions. There should be a reduction of CO2 emissions in the industrialised countries of the North first, but the countries of the South will increase their emissions too in the next 20-25 years because of their energy needs. However, at the present rates of growth, in 15 to 20 years countries like China, India and Brazil will have more emissions than the countries in the North. Therefore, not only should the countries of the North first reduce their emissions, but the others will have to find ways to raise their living standards without sharply increasing energy use, and produce each additional unit of energy with lesser emissions. I don't think there is any particular pressure on these countries.
Which of the developed countries have reached the targets for reduction of greenhouse gases (ghg)? Australia has asked for more time to reduce its emissions, and many allege that the usa has not done enough.
There is a vast differences between the countries of the North in complying with the reduction targets. Netherlands, Denmark and Germany have set rigorous reduction targets to be achieved by AD 2005. For CO2 reductions, it varies between 20-25 per cent. As for the entire ghg emissions, Germany has set itself a target of 50 per cent reduction by AD 2005. And I think we will reach this. We are the 1st country to have phased out the Chlorofluorocarbons (cfcs) and Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (hcfcs), which are responsible for the depletion of the ozone layer.
There is a great difference in the us approach. They are aiming at stabilising their emissions at the 1990 levels. I don't think they will reach it, and neither do they say anything about reduction targets beyond AD 2000.
So, there is a great difference between the countries of the North in these targets. Even in the European Union, they have set a target to stabilise at the 1990 level. While Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands are reducing emissions, the others will fill up by increasing their emissions. Spain for instance, will increase its emissions by 25 per cent between 1990 and AD 2005.
In terms of recording global temperature in the past 10-15 years, do we have accurate data from America's National Aeronautics and Space Administration satellites? And there are climate models which say that temperature rise is merely a cyclical change and not permanent. What are your views on these issues?
Climate changes in the past have happened over short periods. Today it's not just the question of the earth getting warmer by 0.7~C, but also of the warming of the ocean surface. There are lots of indicators which show that there is a change in the climate. A large body of scientific evidence shows, and a number of scientists now admit, that climate change today is a man-made phenomenon and not a natural development, as in the past. While many of them may feel secure for the moment, that the changes are coming in very slowly, yet, soon the problems of flooding and desertification will increase rapidly, in a manner much worse than before. Is there a consensus on the measurements and standards of emissions?
I think work is continuing to equalise standards all over the world. That was one of the 1st things which was done at the convention at Rio. I think this will be finalised within a year, so that all our discussions and agreements would be based on the same standards.
So, what do you expect in the Berlin conference? Will the North and South be able to take a common position?
I am quite pessimistic, because unlike as in Rio, where we had a climate convention with binding commitments for the reduction of ghgs, I don't see that we will get such a commitment in this conference. I don't know if we will even get a protocol saying that within 3 or 4 years we should be able to evolve binding commitments.
There is a lot of resistance in the us, and the Japanese are looking up to the us. If the us is doing nothing, Japan will also do nothing. There is also a lot of resistance from the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries. It will be very difficult to get concrete commitments.
You have suggested that Indians should use less coal and move over to oil, and perhaps to nuclear energy. What is the basis of this suggestion?
I have not said that India should do this. But on the whole, what I have been saying is that coal, especially lignite, lets out more ghgs into the atmosphere than oil and natural gas. If you switch from coal and lignite to oil and gas for producing the same energy units, you have much less greenhouse gases. If say, coal has a ghg potential of 100, then lignite has a standard of 120, oil 80 and natural gas 60, in rough figures. A switch from lignite to gas would halve the emissions, while providing the same quantity of energy.
But how can India increase its dependence on oil? Over 60 per cent of it is being imported today and our reserves are not very impressive, whereas we have large reserves of coal?
Each country's position will be different. As you have large coal reserves, you have to get highly efficient technologies, so that you don't need to run as much coal to get the same amount of energy. You also have a vast potential in renewable energy and hydropower, among other energy resources. There is also much scope for fuelwood plantations, of quick-growing species and biomass-based energy technologies.
It has been alleged that the developed countries are dumping untested or even outdated technologies on the developing countries?
It is not correct to say that. We do support pilot programmes to test new technologies. But we do not say that what is good for Germany will be good for India. We have to test and adopt technology to suit Indian conditions. We have also been stressing the value of solar energy as a viable option for India as you have over 300 sunny days a year in many parts of your country.
You have suggested nuclear energy as an option for India despite its doubtful track record. What specific technologies do you have in mind?
In my opinion nuclear energy is one of the options for offsetting emissions because it is CO2-free. There are risks, but it's a question of choosing the right technology. I would stand this risk, because I think we have good technology to produce nuclear electricity safely, whereas the effect of ghgs can be unmanageable. At the present standards, if we were to go without nuclear energy in Germany, we would have added another 150 million tonnes of CO2 emissions yearly.
Would you elaborate on the specific nuclear technologies which you think would be the safest for India?
Germany has developed high-temperature reactors as well as variants of high-pressure and high-temperature reactors. This could be the possibility, because you could have this in different sizes and they can be scaled up to meet greater energy requirements. If you take them, there will be no risk you can't bear. I live quite close to a nuclear power station myself and I don't feel any risk.
But access to ghg-reduced technologies have been difficult because of trade related intellectual property rights restrictions. What is the way out of this?
Within the Montreal protocol and the climate convention we had said that technology transfer should take place and be financed by the developed countries. The North has lagged behind in its commitments. The transfers have not taken place the way they should have. We have to increase the pace of funding for global environment facility and make it much faster than we have done in the past.