Ex-environment minister Jairam Ramesh: Don't confront US over withdrawal from Paris Agreement

Kochi: Former environment minister Jairam Ramesh has described as "unfortunate" the withdrawal of the US from the Paris climate deal, but advised the Indian government not to take "panga" or confront the Americans over the issue.

He, however, urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to send a clear message to US president Donald Trump, in a meeting expected next month, for "painting" India as a "bad guy" while pulling out of the agreement.

"Modi should make the point to Trump that you have withdrawn and painted us as the bad guys. We account for only about 4.5 to 5 percent of the emissions, whereas you account for 16 percent," Ramesh told PTI in an interview.

"If you have got out of Paris (deal), you got out for your own reasons. Don't blame it on us. And that is the message that he has to send," he said.

File image of former environment minister Jairam Ramesh. AFP

File image of former environment minister Jairam Ramesh. AFP

Trump had announced the decision of the US to withdraw from the Paris climate accord and renegotiate the deal agreed upon by over 190 countries during the previous Barack Obama administration.

He had said New Delhi would get billions of dollars for meeting its commitment under the treaty and it, along with Beijing, would double its coal-fired power plants in the years to come, gaining a financial advantage over the United States.

"Politically what Trump has done is disastrous. It erodes America's moral standing and political standing in the world. But in operational terms, it may not mean very much actually," Ramesh said.

He said the US was a big trading partner with 60 percent of India's software exports to the country worth USD 90 billion and there was a large Indian community there, which was very influential, very rich, very resourceful.

"We can't...we should not take panga with the US," he said.

"Don't confront for the sake of confrontation. We should make it a point that we are deeply disappointed that the US has not only rejected top-down Kyoto, but also rejected bottom up Paris. We should give a clear message", he said.

Ramesh said he felt that China, a leading emitter, would now certainly use this opportunity to show themselves as the good guys.

"The Chinese president recently went to Davos and talked about globalisation. I think the Chinese will use this as an opportunity for taking a high moral ground," he said.

The senior Congress leader expressed anguish over the fate of amendments made to Montreal Protocol in Kigali in 2016 to phase down climate damaging hydro-fluorocarbons (HFCs) in view of Trump's stand on the Paris climate treaty.

"I hope the Montreal Protocol is safe, the Kigali amendments are safe. Because if you are able to control the emissions of HFCs, that itself contributes 0.5 degree Celsius out of that 2 degree Celsius", he said.

Noting that Trump has spoken only on the Paris accord, he said nobody has talked about the Montreal Protocol because that is equally important as methane and HFCs are far more potent than even carbon dioxide (CO2).

"My hope is that the Montreal amendments which allow countries to phase down HFCs will survive. What may not survive is US financing. The US is not going to finance any green technology, the Green Climate Fund. The US may not even finance the fund that is there in the Montreal Protocol," he said.

He said India's response to the climate change challenge has to be linked with the country's multiple vulnerabilities - the monsoon, the glaciers, the forests and the coastal areas.

"We should not be taken by what other countries are doing. India will have to do its own. Frankly if an economy is at seven percent, eight percent per year, we should not depend on finances from any other countries", he said.

Updated Date: Jun 04, 2017 15:14 PM

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