USERNAME: equity PASSWORD: **********

I thought of staying away from climate change completely. I thought any sort of engagement with climate change negotiation was nothing but lending my support to a corrupt process. But a few incidents at home just before the ‘epic’ meeting at Copenhagen forced me to say something. I thought of making the password public.

USERNAME: equity

PASSWORD: compromise

For a long time, India, as a leader of G77+China has screamed hoarse about equity in climate deal. It always sounded strange, as the country within its national boundary has nothing to do with such principle, apart from mentions in the constitution, election manifesto of all political parties and in sundry speeches. My friends in the North [and in the South with Northern sensibilities] have always ridiculed me about India’s ‘equity’ position. It was just posturing, they said. I always maintained that if it was posturing, it was against posturing of the North. Also, we have always maintained that inequity within the national boundary was to be settled within the country, there was no need to go to United Nations to solve India’s problem with income distribution. But equity was to be settled between nations in an international negotiation.

It is obviously clear like the melting polar ice that equity was just posturing, nationally, as well as internationally. How can we suddenly have equity in atmospheric distribution while we have no sense of equity in distribution of water, land, forest, food or sanitation? After all, climate change is not ‘another’ problem. It is a mere aggregate of all the wrong things we have done in the last hundred years. Logically, if we can solve unjust distribution in all other sectors, atmosphere will be cleaner anyway.

A lot of us also hoped against hope that the climate discussion may bring back the logic of equity and justice in the world order. But no such thing happened in the last 15 years, and if things at Copenhagen are going ‘well’ between nation states, equity and justice are way off the radar.

Nationally, at last, we have dropped our posturing. We are now told that ‘per capita’ principle of atmospheric share; the backbone of equity is not a tenable one in international negotiation. Who decided that? Obviously, the rich nations do not like the ‘per capita’ capita argument, as it requires them to give up a large amount of the atmosphere they have grabbed. But why should we give up the argument if we seriously believe in it? The truth is that our national political economy is no different from the ones of climate criminals. And we compromised.

And it is so easy to make us compromise! All it takes is a few editorials in ‘civilised’ publications from ‘civilised’ world branding us naysayers. There are many in the country who want to be seen as ‘civilised’ by the climate criminals. Some of them are also compradors. And there are also good guys who believe in the ‘values’ of the climate criminals. [It is funny that communists were called dogmatic]

Moving away from the ‘per capita’ principle has a major ramification. It simply means a status quo on world order. It clearly means that there will be no transfer of atmospheric space between rich and poor countries. Period. And one thing leads to another.

While moving away from the equity principle, India blinked too. The longstanding demand of G77+China for the industrialised country to commit deep domestic emission cuts before the developing ones to commit substantial reduction has gone out of the window. ‘Civilised’ world broke their Kyoto promises miserably, and got us to make some commitments. India’s commitment of reducing emission intensity can be a great leap forward, our prime minister and environment minister may be termed as blue-eyed boys by the ‘civilised’ world. But will that act bring what the world needs from the rich world? The US promise of 4% emission reduction of the 1990 levels by 2020, and 30% by EU is nowhere near what the science wants. Remember, a large part of this miniscule reduction will be actually achieved by carbon trading! So, atmosphere grabbing will continue.

Reduction of emission intensity within the country, without any technological or financial help can also put pressure on energy use. And we should not fool ourselves. Rich people within the country will not give up any energy access for the poor to light even a CFL bulb. There will be no transfer of energy access from rich to poor, there will be no transfer of atmospheric space from rich to poor. In fact, poor will be expected to pay for rich man’s space. This means wider gap between the rich and poor within the country.

There is a compromise internationally. There is a compromise within the country too. I hope I’m proved wrong by 18th of this month.

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2 Responses to “USERNAME: equity PASSWORD: **********”


  1. 1 Nash December 10, 2009 at 8:39 am

    Interesting argument you put forth here. I have always been a strong believer in survival of the fittest. Now this may mean that man is an animal whose social niceties were developed over a period of time so that his thinking brain could distinguish itself from say a vulture.

    I had high hopes from Copenhagen but now I regret to say its proving to be more of a disappointment than the kyoto protocol. 4% of emission cuts by the US isnt going to do anything. In trying to bring energy consumption patterns of various offices of TCS in chennai(where I work) we came up with an interesting metric which might take into consideration all the vagaries. After giving it a little bit of thought I think the factor

    Carbon/person/area/dollar could be an interesting figure to look at.

    Your thoughts?


  1. 1 1st BUFING syndrome for Obama « alphabet soup @ climate dinner Trackback on December 15, 2009 at 4:56 pm

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