December 9, 1997
In a continuing series on the global warming conference in Kyoto, Japan, Margaret Warner discusses the participation of developing nations in any treaty to reduce greenhouse gases with with India's Ambassador to the U.S., Naresh Chandra.
MARGARET WARNER: Last week we heard opposing views on the science of global warming. This week weve turned to the geopolitics of the debate, beginning last night in a conversation with the European Commissions chief representative to the United States. Tonight we explore another major political rift at the global warming conference in Kyoto, Japan. Its between the worlds fast-growing developing countries, which dont want to accept any binding cuts in their greenhouse gas emissions, and the United States, which is trying to persuade them to make some commitments to do so. With us now is Naresh Chandra, Indias ambassador to the United States. Welcome, Mr. Ambassador.
A RealAudio version of this segment is available.
December 12, 1997:
An Online NewsHour forum on the global warming conference going on in Kyoto, Japan.
December 8, 1997:
The U.S.- E.U. rift over greenhouse gas emissions.
December 5, 1997:
A business leader questions the science behind global warming.
December 4, 1997:
A look at the the science and politics of global warming.
November 10, 1997:
An Online NewsHour forum on the U.S. plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
October 22, 1997:
A discussion of President Clinton's plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
June 25, 1997:
President Clinton is backing the EPA's push for tougher air quality standards, but critics say they're too costly.
February 18, 1997:
The federal Environmental Protection Agency has proposed new clean air standardsthat have been criticized by some industry, state and local officials.
March 6, 1997:
The fastest rise in temperature for perhaps ten thousand years is having a dramatic effect on the brittle ecosystem of Antarctica.
January 4, 1996
British meteorologists report that the Earth's surface temperature was higher than the average in 1995.
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NARESH CHANDRA, Ambassador, India: Thank you.
MARGARET WARNER: Why for now, anyway, do the developing countries not want to make the kind of binding commitments that the U.S. would like to see them make?
Limiting greenhouse gas emissions could impede the elimination of another concern -- poverty.
NARESH CHANDRA: Well, at the moment we have a much higher and urgent priority, and that is eradication of poverty, removal of backwardness, and improving the level of living of our people. That is a much greater, urgent necessity than the long-term aim of controlling greenhouse gas emissions. We are for it. We support all programs, but we feel that the subject has been discussed, certain agreements have been reached, and those agreements deserve some consideration and action.
MARGARET WARNER: Youre talking--let me just interrupt you for a minute--youre talking about earlier agreements that for now the developing countries would not have to make these commitments, is that what you mean?
NARESH CHANDRA: Thats true. The Berlin mandate of 1995 laid down certain courses of action and agreements, but what we have seen is that no complete action has taken place so far. So if there has to be a cooperative effort and programs have to be developed at a global level, first we must have some action on the agreements already reached, and I think it should not be viewed as a problem of "we and they" and "us and them." There are at least three good reasons why the developed countries have to take the fastest steps; fastest that the level of energy generation and consumption is very high in the developed, industrialized nations. Secondly, have the resources and the technical competence to do something about it; and third, that it must be recognized that poverty is by itself a great polluter, and we must not focus on one problem of the environment to the exclusion of others, and, therefore, we feel that at the moment to ask developing countries, which are already suffering from lack of energy to accelerate their economic development, would be very incongruous.
Hardship created by reducing greenhouse emissions would be much less in developed countries.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, you know, the Clinton administration says that while its true that the developing countries are way behind the developed countries in terms of the emissions they put out, that youre fast catching up. For instance, within 15 years, I think, they predict China will have surpassed the U.S. and that the Third World will surpass the developed world within 20 or 30 years. So why not get started now?
NARESH CHANDRA: Well, we have seen those estimates, and I think they deserve serious notice and consideration. It is not that we dont give weight to those concerns, but the point is that today the hardship is visited more upon the people in the developing countries. If one sees that the effort which has been put in already, you will realize that when energy is consumed in a developing country the cost--not only did cost as a proportion of disposable income available to a family, the actual cost is much more than in the United States. I think when information is battled by various interests they must take care to inform the people properly because--
MARGARET WARNER: Let me interrupt you to make sure I understand. Are you saying that energy already costs people in a poor country much more than it costs us?
NARESH CHANDRA: Except for the oil-producing nations. For instance, in India, the cost of gas is much more than in United States. In fact, Ive not heard the American people being informed that the real cost of gas that they are putting in their automobiles is less today than in 1949.
Can economic development proceed in an environmentally-conscious way?
MARGARET WARNER: All right. But is it--do you think its impossible for a country like India to have economic growth, grow its way out of poverty, and do it in an environmentally-conscious way?
NARESH CHANDRA: Very true. In fact, when we push our economic development faster, we are doing it consistently with the requirements of environment, but the requirements are quite a few. For instance, when we tried to exploit hydroelectric potential, we have to take care of submergence of forest area, the displacement of people. When we exploit our hundreds of millions of tons of coal reserves, then we have to see that what is going to be the impacts on very, very many places, we have to scale down. We are looking forward, and we are pressing for clean coal technology. We are already using petroleum, imported petroleum. In fact, more than a quarter of all our imports is energy related, petroleum gas. And, therefore, what we have decided is that we will develop consistently with the requirements of environment but in a country where the energy availability is already less than half than say China, you can say per capita availability in India will always be low because of the huge population, but what you have to see is that in India the energy availability is less than half of what is available to every Chinese. And, therefore, at this moment to start cutting down on energy consumption would just not make sense. It is not possible.
Amb. Chandra: industrialized nations must take lead.
MARGARET WARNER: But, as you know, whats been proposed certainly by the U.S. and other countries is not that even the developing countries accept limits, as the developed countries might, but that say you make some promise or some commitment about 15 or 20 years down the road. What would be the damage in that?
NARESH CHANDRA: The thing is that we must first have phase one in operation.
MARGARET WARNER: Meaning the developed countries?
NARESH CHANDRA: The developed countries have to make a start because they are the ones who are--whose consumption is already way above the world average. And to tell someone who has much greater concerns, who have more urgent priorities at the moment, and whose industrial production and economic growth is getting constrained because of non-availability of power. We have a huge power shortage in India--we impose power cuts on industry. In this context the approach--even if the government of India tries to--it wont carry any credibility with the people. So the context in which each country is placed has to be studied. Every developing country is not in this situation. If you see the list of developing countries, you will find in them countries which are very rich in natural gas, and if you use natural gas for energy, the emission of carbon is very little.
MARGARET WARNER: As you know, the U.S. Senate voted--I think 95 to nothing--last summerto, basically, said they would reject any treaty coming out of Kyoto if it didnt include some commitment from the developing countries. Does that concern you?
NARESH CHANDRA: It does concern us because today the developing countries have all been put in one list. I think some can do something and some should not be asked, in all fairness, to do anything at all, because it depends on the level of development, how much energy per capita is being consumed, and what are the sources available. There are countries which are flush with gas. Then they can take a much greater target for reducing emissions. There are countries which have no gas or petroleum but have vast abundant reserves of goal, and their energy availability per capita is very, very little.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Well, thank you, Mr. Ambassador, very much.
NARESH CHANDRA: Thank you.