Tuesday , 23rd April 2002

The Times of India

India is likely to sign the Kyoto Protocol this October. Forty nations have already signed the international agreement that enumerates responsibilities of individual governments to reduce net emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide by the most industrial nations.

The protocol, drawn up under the aegis of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1997, to come into force, requires 55 countries including an industrialised nation, to sign on the dotted line. Collectively, the 55 countries need to account for atleast 55 per cent of the carbon dioxide emissions worldwide.

“Indications are that India will sign the protocol as the awareness of the threat from the increased concentration of greenhouse gases is now quite high. The Energy Conservation Act that was enacted in October 2001 paved the way for India signing the Kyoto Protocol,” said Sujoy Basu, director of School of Energy Studies at Jadavpur University. He was delivering the Earth Day lecture titled ‘Kyoto Protocol: Options before India.’ The lecture was organised by Consumer Unity & Trust Society, a non-government organisation.

He viewed India’s participation in the protocol critical as international pressure was needed to set things right in the country’s industrial sector which continued to pay little heed to environment concerns. “Indian industry is mostly indifferent to environmental needs and continues to use obsolete technology. Industries have to become more energy-efficient,” he said.

Basu criticised the government’s automotive policies that allowed a heavy influx of cars in the country. “With oil reserves at 136 billion tonne or 1,000 billion barrels and consumption of 75 billion barrels a day with a 2 per cent compounded annual growth rate, there will be a scarcity in 45-50 years. The petrol and diesel cars not only cause more pollution but also inflate the oil import bill,” Basu said.

The Kyoto Protocol attempts to arrest the global warming that has already affected the earth’s climate, causing changes in temperature, rainfall, extreme climatic conditions and rise in sea level. While the average global temperature is expected to rise by 1.4-5.8 degree centigrade against last century average of 15.27 degree centigrade, the mean sea level is expected to rise by 15.95 cm, threatening the existence of many island nations.

Indian environmentalist Rajendra Pachauri is the current chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the body that advises governments on long-term climate changes.

He beat the incumbent, US scientist Robert Watson in a secret ballot. Watson’s removal follows a campaign by the United States, which announced its refusal to join the Kyoto Protocol in March 2001.

Though the US withdrawal was initially viewed as a major blow to the initiative, Basu said environmentalist worldwide had received a shot in the arm following the participation of 171 governments in the conference of parties at Marrakesh in November 2001.