Obama Administration Declares Green War on India

28d339fac0a1He wouldn’t put it this way, but Secretary of State John Kerry announced this week that the U.S. government will turn the screws on India over the country’s environmental record. This is a bold challenge to the Indian government that could become an extremely effective exercise of soft power. But even if AirNow  monitoring doesn’t work a diplomatic miracle in time for the Paris climate conference, at least the fact that India’s pollution problem hurts its people will be well-articulated. That can only increase public pressure to clean up India’s development strategy. –Stephen Stromberg, The Washington Post, 20 February 2015

World leaders are now preparing for a global summit on climate change in Paris in December, where they hope to agree on a global strategy. As the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, India also needs to make a similarly strong commitment to keep the momentum going. Mr. Modi was elected on a promise to liberalize India’s economy as a means to encourage foreign investment, create new jobs and lift millions of Indians out of poverty. The country has long argued that emissions targets would thwart these goals. Given that about 300 million Indians lack access to electricity and millions more live with shortages, the need for power is obviously great. Even so, the current path — a continued heavy investment in coal — is self-destructive, killing India’s people, taxing its health care system and making the environment so inhospitable that foreign investors could be scared away. –Editorial, The New York Times, 23 February 2015

India’s position underscoring the historical responsibilities of developing countries in the context of climate change was up against proposed dilutions to that concept notably by the U.S. and the European Union at the recent climate talks in Geneva. An Indian official said the meeting did not have any high ambition on targets though all countries took an active part in including various points in the draft treaty for Paris. The U.S. suggested doing away with the differences between developed and developing countries and one of the suggestions was that countries should be rated based on World Bank data. –Meena Menon, The Hindu, 23 February 2015

The Paris Climate Conference this December will not produce an agreement that is “environmentally optimal,” according to former Minister Jairam Ramesh who served as India’s chief negotiator at the 2009 conference in Copenhagen. The key to the Paris Conference, according to Ramesh, is not whether countries make contributions, but whether the UN can muster support for an enforcement mechanism to ensure that countries comply with the contributions they make. Developing countries like India may be reluctant to accept any enforcement mechanism that could have the effect of limiting economic growth. Were they asked to rank economic growth against climate objectives, Ramesh said, developing countries would choose growth. –Jeff McMahon, Forbes, 20 February 2015

Owen Paterson, the former environment secretary, will this week accuse the European Union and Greenpeace of condemning people in the developing world to death by refusing to accept genetically modified crops. In a strongly-worded denunciation of the “green blob” of officials and pressure groups, Mr Paterson will warn that a food revolution that could save Africa from hunger is being held back. He will like Greenpeace to the Luddites who smashed textile machinery in the nineteenth century, and accuse the EU of “neo-colonialism at its worst” by restricting food production within its own borders. — Matthew Holehouse, The Sunday Telegraph, 22 February 2015

This is also a time, however, of great mischief, in which many individuals and even governments are turning their backs on progress. Not since the original Luddites smashed cotton mill machinery in early 19th century England, have we seen such an organised, fanatical antagonism to progress and science. These enemies of the Green Revolution call themselves ‘progressive’, but their agenda could hardly be more backward-looking and regressive. –Owen Paterson, The Sunday Telegraph, 22 February 2015

India placed a moratorium on GM eggplant in 2010 fearing the effect on food safety and biodiversity. Field trials of other GM crops were not formally halted, but the regulatory system was brought to a deadlock. But allowing GM crops is critical to Indian Prime Minister Modi’s goal of boosting dismal farm productivity in India, where urbanization is devouring arable land and population growth will mean there are 1.5 billion mouths to feed by 2030 – more even than China. Starting in August last year, his government resumed the field trials for selected crops with little publicity. –Krishna Das & Mayank Bhardwaj, Reuters, 23 February 2015