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India plans global warming roadmap by year-end

Fri Jul 13, 2007 10:38am EDT

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India took the first step towards developing a national plan to tackle the effects of global warming and assess its own greenhouse gas emissions on Friday, amid mounting international pressure.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Council on Climate Change held its first meeting in a bid to come up with a clear plan ahead of a key United Nations climate change meeting in Bali in December, but did not set any overall emissions targets.

Singh said given India's dependence on monsoon rains, Himalayan glacier-fed rivers and its long coastline, climate change would have a serious impact.

He said the country was already focusing on energy sources capable of reducing emissions, such as hydro, nuclear and solar power, but more had to be done.

"We must at the same time explore ways of new and greener ways of development," Singh, who chaired the meeting, told council members.

He called for a review of past efforts and plans for the future to be ready by November.

A strategy to deal with the melting of Himalayan glaciers, which feed many of Asia's major rivers and upon which India's food security depends, should be developed, he said.

Singh added that an afforestation program called "Green India" would be launched in August to replant 6 million ha (15 million acres) of degraded forests.

He also said environmentally friendly strategies should be incorporated in all future development.

India, whose economy has grown by 8-9 percent a year in recent years, is one of the world's top polluters, contributing around 4 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions as its consumption of fossil fuels gathers pace.

But as a developing nation, India is not required to cut emissions -- said to be rising by between 2 and 3 percent a year -- under the Kyoto Protocol, despite mounting pressure from environmental groups and industrialized nations.

"India is now responding to the urgency of the situation," said Sunita Narain, council member and director of the New Delhi-based think-tank, the Centre for Science and Environment.

"We have never been very good at stating our position and it is the right time to articulate all the things that India is doing and plans to do to mitigate and adapt to global warming."


The new national plan will not include any overall emissions target -- the country says it must use more energy to lift its population from poverty and that its per-capita emissions are a fraction of those in rich states that have burnt fossil fuels unhindered since the Industrial Revolution.

Instead the 21-member council, which includes ministers, environmentalists, industrialists and journalists, is likely to consider ways to increase energy efficiency without undermining growth and bolster the contribution of renewable energy sources.

It will also ponder ways to combat the effects of global warming, which threatens the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people on the Indian subcontinent -- potentially one of the most seriously affected regions in the world.

"Different ministries like environment and industry and agriculture have all been working separately on climate change so it has been difficult to communicate and coordinate one single policy on the issue," said a senior environment official.

"This council will help us to reach a consensus which suits all sectors and is in the best interests of India."

Receding Himalayan glaciers could jeopardize water supplies for hundreds of millions of people and rising sea levels menace Indian cities like Mumbai and Kolkata, as well as neighboring Bangladesh, scientists warn.

Floods and droughts could become more common, diseases more rampant and crop yields lower as temperatures rise, they say.

December's U.N.-hosted meeting will be the first step towards formulating a successor to the Kyoto plan, which lapses in 2012.

China unveiled its own national plan for coping with global warming earlier this year and has promised to hold down per-capita emissions of greenhouse gases, but has also resisted calls for a mandatory cap on carbon dioxide emissions.


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