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The Indian government, from now on, will be sending a representative along with IPCC chairman R. K. Pachauri to all meetings of the Nobel winning UN panel on climate change. This is not to “monitor” Pachauri but to observe the proceedings of the meetings, environment and forest minister Jairam Ramesh said.

Ramesh was at pains to explain that the Indian government, including the Prime Minister and himself, were standing in support of Pachauri. “As chairman of the IPCC, he can take an associate along with him. India has not been represented in that scientific body, though India is the country most vulnerable to climate change. We are sending our representative along to get a footprint in that body, and not as a policeman – not at all,” he stated.

What makes this explanation questionable is that India has not had a representative on the UN panel right from the beginning.

And Pachauri has not given India this option of sending along a representative till now. “I find it bizarre that India is not there in this forum. India must be able to find out what is happening and the representative will give us an informal assessment of all that is going on,” Ramesh said.

The government’s move comes in the wake of errors cropping up in an IPCC report, which are threatening its very credibility. The “Glaciergate” story, as it has come to be called, was caused by the report contending that Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035, a date that is now found to have been alarmist and erroneous.

Pachauri has admitted to the errors, but said the controversy has been triggered by vested interests who are out to reduce the importance of the climate change debate. But this has not been sufficient to counter the outcry, with Greenpeace UK head John Sauven stating that the IPCC needs a new leader to regain credibility as Pachauri showed flawed judgement in clearing the erroneous report.

Pachauri, however, did find a defender in United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change chief Yvo de Boer who said the former could not be personally held responsible for the error. Ramesh also stated unequivocally: “Indian government is backing Pachauri to the hilt. There is no wavering in the stand of the Prime Minister or mine in supporting the chairman of the IPCC.”

India Today, 5 February 2010