Thursday, October 15, 2009

Climate Politics

This week, I attended a conference on climate change hosted by a Delhi-based think tank. They'd invited spokesmen from the Congress and the BJP. The Congress chap didn't show up. The BJP guy did. He should've saved himself the embarrassment. I won't name him because he's an active and 'visible' member of the party. But here is just some of what he had to say about climate change (the bold is his, the italics are my comments).The Speech- (at the start of his speech) All 1 billion Indians know about climate change. He's clearly not one of them as you will see. - The Montreal Protocol failed to control climate change. We need a new protocol at Copenhagen Totally agree, especially since 'Montreal' was meant to control ozone-depleting substances, not CO2. - The global 2 degree limit from the MEF declaration is unfair. Developed countries should have a 1 degree limit, while developing countries must have a 3 degree limit. Sure. let's set the temperature above India to a nice 24 degrees. To compensate, perhaps the US can set its temperature to 23? Oh wait, we share the atmosphere. My bad. - (at the end of his speech) 1 billion Indians don't know about climate change. Oh my, did someone go out there and erase their memories while you were speaking for the past 20 minutes? Q&A with the un-informedDuring the Q&A round, not one of the so-called experts called his bluff out of fear of angering him. So I did. "Sir," I asked, "India seeks to emulate China in many areas. If China has invested $221b in green tech through their economic stimulus, why can't India do something similar?" His answer: "That's a difficult question for me to answer". So I asked again, "Then perhaps as a member of the oppostion party, you could ask your colleagues to question the government". His reply, "Um, yes, it's hard for me to answer. I don't know. I'm not part of the government". The only thing this man was right about all afternoon was the fact that he was no longer part of the government, having lost his seat in the last Lok Sabha elections.If this is the quality of debate in our parliament, how exactly is India supposed to achieve national consensus on climate change. I am no longer surprised when people tell me that bureaucrats have have hijacked India's position on climate change. It must be so easy for them to do that, seeing how ill-informed our politicians are on the single-most important crisis of our time.However, I am encouraged that the new Environment Minister has managed to hammer through the log-jam by sheer force of his personality.

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