India’s new environment minister, Prakash Javadekar, told The New York Times this week that his country’s carbon-dioxide emissions would likely keep rising for the next 30 years.
“What cuts?” he said about international efforts to curtail emissions and slow the pace of global warming. “That’s for more developed countries.”
Some observers have interpreted Javadekar’s comments to mean that India doesn’t take climate change seriously at all. But it’s a bit more complicated than that.
India’s position has long been that it’s willing to voluntarily slow the growth of its emissions (compared with current trends) but it won’t make absolute cuts while it’s still climbing out of poverty. And in theory, India’s stance could be compatible with global efforts to reduce emissions and avoid drastic warming — though it certainly won’t be easy. Here’s a rundown:
India’s climate stance: This mostly isn’t our fault
India has long insisted that wealthier countries like the United States and Europe (and even China) should bear most of the burden for tackling climate change. After all, those nations got to enjoy the growth benefits that come with burning fossil fuels for their cars, power plants, and factories for many decades. Now it’s India’s turn.
The chart below shows the basic thinking here. India’s per-person emissions are still one-tenth that of the United States and one-fourth that of China. India is still very poor, has 1 billion people, and, its officials say, deserves some leeway on this:
That doesn’t mean India is totally ignoring climate change. In the Times interview, Javadekar said the country is looking at plans to slow the future growth of emissions (which are otherwise on pace to rise 60 percent between 2020 and 2040).