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Pretty Good Week on Global Warming as US & India Agreed to Actions

Jake Schmidt

Posted November 25, 2009 in Solving Global Warming

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It was a pretty good week for the Obama team (and the world) as they made progress on global warming with China last week (as I discussed here and as my colleague Barbara Finamore discussed here) and now with India.  Prime Minister Singh of India and President Obama just announced a Joint Statement (available here) and a set of cooperative actions on clean energy (summary available here).  In the lead-in to the meeting our President Frances Beinecke stressed: "I hope these leaders [Obama and Singh] seize that opportunity, because it will benefit not only our two nations, but the entire world."  They made very positive steps forward on global warming that give a little bump to the world's efforts to solve this critical challenge.

Since the US, China, and India are the three of the world's top current emitters of global warming pollution, any progress on actions by these three countries can have a very noticeable impact on the world's efforts to solve global warming.  So progress on all these fronts this week have to be considered a "very strong week by the Obama team". 

Here are the headlines from the climate portions of the Joint Statement that struck me.  As you'll notice they are some of the same core elements that were recently agreed with China (as I discussed here).  (My colleague Anjali Jaiswal posted here about a letter where NRDC outlined our recommendations for collaboration between the US and India and here about the announcement).

1. The Copenhagen outcome and a final legal agreement. 

There has been a lot of interaction over the last couple of weeks on what the Copenhagen outcome would entail.  The general sentiment that has emerged is that the final legal agreement will be secured next year, but countries would seek to secure an agreement in Copenhagen that would both codify the commitments to actions from key countries and outline a clear path to finalizing the legal agreement in "months, not years"(as I discussed here).  So what did the U.S. and India have to say on that front?

"The two leaders also affirmed that the Copenhagen outcome must be comprehensive and cover mitigation, adaptation, finance and technology...it should reflect emission reduction targets of developed countries and nationally appropriate mitigation actions of developing countries...The outcome should further reflect the need for substantially scaled-up financial resources to support mitigation and adaptation in developing countries, in particular, for the poorest and most vulnerable.  It should also include measures for promoting technology development, dissemination and transfer and capacity building, including consideration of a center or a network of centers to support and stimulate climate innovation" [emphasis added].

So both countries are signaling that they want an outcome coming from Copenhagen which solidifies the current commitments by key countries to take clear action to curb their emissions (as I've discussed here).  And an outcome in Copenhagen that creates a specific path for countries to deepen and firm up their commitments next year.

2. Both countries will take mitigation commitments and "stand behind them". 

So we've heard the comment for a while: "developing countries won't take action to address their global warming pollution" and "they won't really meet their commitments".  Here is what India and the U.S. agreed to address this concern:

"India and the United States...resolved to take significant national mitigation actions that will strengthen the world's ability to combat climate change.  They resolved to stand by these commitments" [emphasis added].

As I mentioned here, the Environment Minister Ramesh provided some hints that India would be willing to report their emissions and actions every 2 years and use that reporting to begin a dialogue with the world on their actions.  We'll have to see how these principles get implemented, but this signals a stronger move in those directions as now the signal "comes from the top".

3. Both countries actions to reduce emissions will be fully transparent. 

To add even more credibility to the concept of "standing behind their commitments", India and the US agreed that the international agreement should have:

"...full transparency through appropriate processes as to the implementation of aforesaid mitigation actions" [emphasis added].

And they agreed:

"Working with India's Ministry of Environment and Forests, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will provide technical support for Indian efforts to establish an National Environmental Protection Authority focused on creating a more effective system of environmental governance, regulation and enforcement" [emphasis added].

The commitment to stand behind their actions, make them fully transparent and then work together on "governance, regulation and enforcement" are very positive steps.  The combination of these steps helps build confidence that both countries will live up to their commitments.  

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Not a bad week for team Obama (and the world) on the international global warming front...progress with China and India.  While ultimately we need clear signals from the US, China, and India about their firm actions to reduce their global warming pollution, the agreements reached over the last week provide some clear signals that those actions will be forthcoming from India and China, and that these countries will "stand behind them".

Hopefully some of that positive momentum will carry over to Copenhagen when negotiations reconvene in just under a week.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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