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At Rio, India blames it on rich but content overall

Friday June 22, 2012 09:21:49 AM, Arvind Padmanabhan, IANS

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Rio de Janeiro: It was a mixed bag for India on the penultimate day of the Earth Summit here Thursday where Prime Minister Manmohan Singh articulated the aspirations of the developing world, saying it cannot be forced or even expected to share equally the burden of environmental degradation perpetrated by rich nations in the past.

The regret was on the continuing ambiguity and the lack of any meaningful solution on how developed nations proposed to fund green technologies and programmes of emerging and poor countries.

So was the conspicuous absence of two main leaders of rich nations, US President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who did not join some 90 other leaders in this picturesque port town for the vital summit.

Yet, there were three distinct takeaways from the summit for emerging economies in general and India in particular, which in many ways ensures they will not be burdened unduly with having to pay a greater price for growth and development in a green, sustainable manner.

First, it restores what is called the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities in the environmental discourse --recognition that since rich nations grew by polluting the globe, emerging world cannot be forced to fully bear the cost of green development and livelihood issues in the future.

Second, it kick-starts the process on sustainable development goals, exactly 20 years after the first Earth Summit had adopted the principal of respecting national circumstances, priorities and capacities in addressing environmental concerns. (Rio+20, as the current summit is also called, is attributed to that endeavour).

Third was the decision not to thrust specific goals and targets on stakeholders and leaving that process to intergovernmental consultations that would give equal rights to both developing and developed countries to find equitable and acceptable solutions.

At the global level, our approach to the problem should be guided by equitable burden sharing. It is for this reason that the first Rio Summit enshrined the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, the Indian prime minister said.

I am happy we have reaffirmed this principle as well as the principle of equity during this Summit, the prime minister told one of the plenary sessions, while also expressing regret that the rich nations were not all that forthcoming.

Many countries could do more if additional finance and technology were made available. Unfortunately, there is little evidence of support from the industrialised countries in these areas. The ongoing economic crisis has made matters worst.

The prime minister had arrived here Wednesday after attending the G20 Summit at Los Cabos in Mexico and was to leave Friday morning for New Delhi, via Pretoria.

He is scheduled to arrive in the India capital late Saturday after a gruelling trip that involved 50 hours in the air.

During the run-up to what is officially called the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development here, India also emerged as a strong voice for the G77 caucus of 131 countries, least developed nations and the small island states.

As far as India is concerned, the outcome document takes into consideration our interests and concerns and we are satisfied with the overall package, said Environment Minister Jayanti Natarajan, who assisted Manmohan Singh in the talks.

India was constructive at Rio and, in addition to our own proposals, which met with widespread support, our delegation played a crucial role in bridging differences and building consensus on many important issues, she told reporters here.

Indian industry, this time, was not discontent.

"Countries have worked hard to put together a draft that addresses the concerns of developed and developing countries, though it may not please everyone equally, said S. Gopalakrishnan, president-designate of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

The draft is set to be adopted Friday.

Leading the chambers business delegation to Rio+20, he said the decisions agreed upon by world leaders were good starting points, since global action on sustainable development needed to be realistic and practical, given the new economic realities.

The reactions from Indian non-government organisations were similar. They felt although there was little move forward, they were happy there was no movement backward either. Funding remained their main concern.

(Arvind Padmanabhan can be reached at





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