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U.S. Dances Around Carbon Limits with India

Samuel Staley
July 20, 2009, 5:45pm

India recently blasted U.S. attempts to force carbon emissions limits on India, and watching Secretary of State Hilary Clinton tap dance around the criticism was both informative and disturbing. It really showed the shallowness of the U.S. approach to climate change.

"No sooner had Mrs. Clinton marveled at the [Indian] building’s environmentally friendly features [during her state visit to Gurgaon, India] — like windows that flood rooms with light but keep out heat — than her hosts vented frustration at American pressure on India to cut its emissions.

"In a meeting with Mrs. Clinton, India’s environment and forests minister, Jairam Ramesh, said there was “no case” for the West to push India to reduce carbon dioxide emissions when it already had among the lowest levels of emissions on a per capita basis. “If this pressure is not enough,” he said, “we also face the threat of carbon tariffs on our exports to countries such as yours.”

"Rather than projecting solidarity, the visit ended up laying bare the deep divide between developed and developing countries on climate policy — a gulf the Obama administration will have to bridge as it tries to forge a new global agreement on climate change later this year."

It's true. No one in the U.S. (or Europe or Asia) would ever tolerate the dire poverty experienced by hundreds of millions of people in India, China, and elswhere, yet our policies focused so much on reducing overall carbon emissions essentially means those people will be trapped in poverty in perpetuity. Yet, global carbon emissions can't possibly be lowered without keeping India, China, etc. in poverty (and keep per capita carbon emissions down).

The logic is inescapable to everyone except Sec. Clinton and the Obama Administration:

"Mrs. Clinton, in the first visit to India by a top Obama administration official, offered reassurances that the United States had no intention of forcing India into an economically crippling deal.

“No one wants to, in any way, stall or undermine economic growth that is necessary to lift millions more people out of poverty,” Mrs. Clinton said at a news conference. “The United States does not, and will not, do anything that would limit India’s economic progress.”

"American officials said they did not expect these differences to be aired during what was supposed to be an upbeat event, focusing on technology. But they said they did not feel betrayed."

Hmm. They must know that a few solar panels and windmills in India isn't going to come close to cutting carbon emissions to 1990 levels as they advocate in the U.S.

Sometimes, the logic of U.S. climate change policy verges on the absurd. This is not science-based policy or politics.


Samuel Staley is Research Fellow


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