Quit Blaming India, Support Its Transition To Cleaner Development: U.N. Deputy Climate Change Chief Interview

03/12/2015 9:41 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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UNITED NATIONS, NEW YORK, NY, UNITED STATES - 2015/09/17: Janos Pasztor answers a question at the press briefing. Janos Pasztor, the UN Assistant Secretary-General on Climate Change, and Amina Mohammed, the Secretary-General's Special Advisor on Post-2015 Development Planning, participated in a press conference covering an array of interrelated topics, ranging from the relationship of climate change to refugee situations globally to the upcoming Paris Conference on climate change. (Photo by Albin Lohr-Jones/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

PARIS -- Four days into the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Paris, India has come under pressure to rein in its CO2 emissions especially from coal, which, the country needs to meet its energy requirements for economic growth and providing electricity to 300 million people who still don't have access to power.

India has laid down an ambitious plan to generate 40 percent energy from non-fossil fuel source by 2040, and is willing to do more if it receives the required finance and technology from the international community. But it isn't ready to compromise on its development, which involves doubling its coal consumption over the next decade.

Responding to concerns that India's coal plans could derail the global response to the crisis, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked developed countries to free up the remaining carbon space for developing countries. "Progress is our destiny," he said, while speaking at COP21, earlier this week.

HuffPost India spoke with Janos Pasztor , U.N. Assistant Secretary General for Climate Change, about the focus on India during the initial days of the conference.

Pasztor, a soft-spoken Hungarian diplomat, who has been involved in the climate change negotiations for almost two decades, advised against turning the conference into a blame game and suggested other ways of getting things done.

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India is being isolated from the start of the conference. Do you think is fair?

That is what it is happening. I don't think that is a good thing. I think there are other ways to address these issues. It is very clear to me that India has to be able to provide more to its citizens in the future. There are lot of poor people in India and they need to be brought out of poverty. And for that you need economic growth. And you need energy. The question is how can the international community help to make sure that transition which India has to go through, which will include fossil fuels, there is no doubt about it, how can that transition be made in such a way that will help the minimal impact on emissions.

There are certain countries which are pushing India, well India has to do more...more what? Maybe, we can look at it the other way, and say what investments can we generate in India to make sure that fossil fuels, that coal is burnt as efficiently as possible, how can we get the latest technologies to India. And also to support the plans of Prime Minister Modi. He has got incredible plans for renewable energy expansion. These are fantastic things, but it will need investment, and I think that this where we should be putting our efforts into.

It is very clear to me that India has to be able to provide more to its citizens in the future. There are lot of poor people in India and they need to be brought out of poverty.

Do you think these certain countries should stop attacking India?

It is not my business to tell countries what to do. I'm just saying that in my view, it is a much better approach to look at this as an opportunity for development, for technology development, a different kind of technology development that is either emissions free or lower emissions than the existing systems. Lets not make this into a blame game. When you start comparing countries...who is right...who is wrong...who should do more...who should do less, it gets very complicated. I don't think it is very helpful.

In essence that is why we have today is this nationally determined contributions (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions). Really, the idea is that let every country say that this is what we can do unconditionally and if we can get more resources from the international community then we can do even more. I think that is a very good way to proceed.

The word - obstructionist - has been used to describe India - do you think that's true?

No, I don't think so. But I think like every country, India is here to look at and look after their national interest. Now where every country has a challenge, not just India, is to take your national interest and combine it with the global interest. And there has to be a balance. And it's not easy to find that balance.

Now where every country has a challenge, not just India, is to take your national interest and combine it with the global interest.

In his speech here, PM Modi talked about the need for developed countries to free up carbon space and give developing countries a chance. Do you agree?

There is no question about it. The IPCC was very clear that there is only a limited amount of space left to emit more carbon. So we know the total, and we also know that historically what has been put in there. So those facts are there. There is not much you can do about it. That is why the Convention is very clear. The developed countries have to take a lead. And it is for that reason. Now, that is what this whole negotiation is all about. What that means in practice - common but differentiated responsibilities according to the capacities and capabilities of countries so that is why it is so difficult to go through this because it is not easy to come to a conclusion that works. But I'm reasonably confident when I hear the discussions, when I hear the ministers of governments, there will be a solution.

Developed countries have to take a lead.

Do the INDCs show that developed countries have taken a lead?

Every countries need to do more. There is no question about it. We're not there. We're maybe around 3 degrees (Celsius) if we implement everything - if we implement everything. So every country clearly we need to more. The developed countries have made efforts, some countries have made very substantial efforts, others need to do more. But this is part of the process that we have here, countries will provide their national plans, and then countries will be discussing and not pressuring in any form or way that this country needs to do 10 percent more or five percent less. But it will be on the table and let countries discuss what else needs to be done to stay below the 2 degree (Celsius) mark.

Every countries need to do more. There is no question about it. We're not there.

Do you think the principles of - common but differentiated responsibilities and equity - been dilute or are these still strong considerations?

I think it is still a very strong consideration. I think it will stay. The question is what that means at a practical level. And it has implications on reporting process, implications on financing, implications on a whole series of things within the agreement. I think, the principle will be there, and even if we do end up with one system, that is way it is being discussed with many countries, but still lets have that flexibility so different countries will have different levels of capacity and development will be able to still deliver. Some of the reporting requirements require considerable capacities for data collection, processing, things like that, which some developing countries simply don't have. Developed countries took many years to have their reporting requirements sorted out.

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Do you think "differentiation" should be based on Annex 1 and non-Annex 1 countries (developed and developing) from the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, or it needs to change?

It depends on who you are talking to.

In your opinion?

There is no doubt that things have evolved. Things have evolved in every sense. As I said at the very beginning of our discussion that there are countries that have a lot of poverty and just because there maybe some big cities with financial centres doesn't mean that the totality of the population is living at the level that one would hope for everyone in this world.

How are the negotiations going, so far?

It is early times, but generally speaking it is going well. The Heads of States presence here the first day had a very strong political impulse that we need to get an agreement by the end of next week. So lets see.

COP21 coverage on HuffPost India is supported by CANSA and PAIRVI.

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