India’s concern over European Union (EU) law to tax air carriers for carbon emissions may find an echo at the Rio Conference on sustainable development, with environment ministry calling it an important issue for discussion.
The Union Cabinet on Thursday cleared the mandate for negotiations at Rio, but the meeting saw Union civil aviation minister Ajit Singh flag the concern about EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). When he asked if ETS would be on the conference agenda, environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan said it was a key concern that needs to be addressed.
The brief discussion underlined apprehensions that developed world’s stress on environmental dimension of development would hurt the developing countries that cannot meet the stiff targets without compromising on its industrial growth.
The EU scheme for civil aviation seeks to tax commercial jetliners for carbon dioxide emissions. Asking the airlines to report emissions, the EU has touted the law as its big-ticket intervention to cut greenhouse emissions to combat climate change.
The move triggered a strong reaction in India, with civil aviation minister Ajit Singh threatening retaliation if the scheme was not halted. China and the US have reacted similarly.
Natarajan argued Europe’s unilateral aviation law reflected the fears why India was opposed to accepting ‘sustainable development goals’ with standard global targets. The developing countries want “common but differentiated responsibility” — promising extended timeline, transfer of green technology and funds — to accept binding targets.
India prefers focus on themes like poverty eradication, preserving livelihoods and access to services for poor. In contrast, the developed world wants a focus on environmental dimension by sidelining social and economic issues.
The Cabinet, chaired by the PM, approved the principles of “equity” and “differentiated responsibility” as non-negotiable in talks on sustainable development, akin to the climate change talks in Durban.
In this context, ETS seems to reinforce the fears in developing countries that primacy to environment could lead to prescriptive regime which would hurt them. India would closely coordinate with G77+China on negotiations.
India is likely to back the strengthening of United Nations Environment Programme, a key agenda pushed by the EU, but would oppose its becoming a specialized body. The fears are that turning UNEP into a global expert body could pave the way for intrusive monitoring influenced by the developed world.