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What Next -- Climate Watch

INDIA - 'Grim Reaper' of Durban -- Really?

As increasing pressure and preparations for a nasty blame game was mounted against India principled refusal to abandon the Bali Action Plan -- from both rich countries, several island states, as well as major parts of the mainstream environmental CSOs -- Stockholm Environment Institute's Sivan Kartha felt the need to set the record straight. Read this important and revealing note with facts that should constitute the basis for any conversation about India's role and responsibility in relation to other countries.
/Niclas

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INDIA - 'Grim Reaper' of Durban -- Really?
By Sivan Kartha
The common wisdom is that we've come here to save Africa. Africa, we hear every day, is a continent populated with poor people on the front lines of climate change, where immediate adaptation is a priority and climate delay means death. India, we hear, is the grim reaper. And the purpose of COP17 is, in large part, to compel India to step back from the brink and help save Africa. India should stop being an obstructionist like the US, and should come to the rescue of Africa.
Well... some comparisons are in order.


Africa is poor. VERY poor. Seventeen Africans live on the income of one American. And India? Turns out the number of Indians who live on the income of one American is... 16. Yes, India is a bit closer to Africa than it is to the US on this score.
But, even though India's *average* income is just about the same as Africa's, it's still crawling with millionaires like Mukesh Ambani, right? Actually, 1.1% of Africans have made it into the top global wealth decile, whereas 0.9% of Indians have. Rather even, I'd say. And again, India stands a bit closer to Africa than to the US (with 21% of Americans in the top global decile.)
But, anyway, Africa is a low emitter which is suffering from the rest of the world's emissions, whereas India is on a planet-incinerating coal binge, right? After all, an African's per capita GHG emissions are only 1/6 of an American's. And India? Well... only 1/10th of an American's, actually. And, if you don't like per capita comparisons (you don't think should India get a break for being populous?), India's *total* emissions are only 2/3 of Africa's.
And as for vulnerability? Where does India's water come from? From the Himalayan glaciers and from the monsoons. My guess is climate change will be no kinder to India than to Africa.
Of course, the point of this is not to compare Africa and India so we can figure out who is poorer, who is suffering more, and who is less responsible for climate change. The point is to ask why have so many people gotten sucked in by the India scape-goating, which is so obviously a diversion? The whole "survival versus development" false dichotomy has always been dangerous, but never more so than when applied to Africa and India. It is no surprise India appears to some to have have gone on the defensive, dug in its heals, and started looking for allies wherever it can possibly find them. Which, alas, has unsurprisingly led it to engage in some ham-handed diplomacy.
Yes, inequality is toxic. Yes, elites are parasitic. Yes, corporate capture is ruining our planet. But India has no monopoly on these things.
In these negotiations, we've *got* to turn our attention back to the Parties who are the real blockers... the greedy Parties that are demanding every loophole; the free-riders who are putting forward paltry pledges that are completely at odds with their capacity and responsibility, the tight-fisted countries that are still refusing to put real money on the table to help stop climate catastrophe, ostensibly because of their self-inflicted financial woes.
Shall we get back to work?
Sivan
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