Sunday, March 14, 2010

Follow Up: "Climate Scrutiny", the BRAI BILL, the Commons, and Nuclear Subsidies

China is backing India's opposition to "scrutiny" of the non-binding pledges made at Copenhagen.  Interestingly, China appears on target to meet it's own emissions targets--it seems they are opposing "scrutiny" on principle, not because they won't make their targets.

It's bizarre to find the US trying to police this, since they've done nothing substantial to address their responsibility for nearly 30% of the carbon floating around in the air right now; they like to blame China without thinking about who buys the lion's share of the products China makes!  Many Americans--including some environmental leaders-- don't even want to mention their historic responsibility, much less do anything about it. I learned this when I visited the Huffington Report recently, where Patrick McCully, director of International Rivers, was saying, "Don't Mention the Climate Debt." There's a longer discussion that needs to be had regarding that, but I'm saving it for another day. To better understand the issues and history surrounding how we share the atmospheric commons, take a look at this short article in current issue of Frontline.

Speaking of the commons, here are a few links to follow up our recent guest post by Sabitha T P:
The Pirate Party is number 4 on this list.
If water isn't part of the commons, what is?  Find out about what Indian Youth Climate Network is doing for World Water Day.

Regarding the two stupid bills we wrote about on Tuesday, please don't forget to sign these petitions:

Monsanto admits it's seeds don't work (they actually want to sell us the new and improved variety!)
Interesting slide show on the BRAI Bill (thanks to Kabir for passing it on).

Brahma Chellaney writes in Mint about why the Nuclear Damage Bill is so bad (like us, he says "it constitutes a generous Indian state subsidy to foreign firms" and it "weakens nuclear safety").
One more thing to hate about this bill: in most cases, right to claim compensation is capped at 10 years...what?! We're not talking about traffic accidents, my friends--nuclear accidents often cause leaks of radioactive material, which can lead to cancer, and everyone knows that can take years to develop.


  1. Enjoyed the article on the US's historical responsibility - I think it's just another one of those things that will never achieve reparation - like colonization, etc etc.

  2. Naomi Klein also mentioned in a recent speech that American environmentalists keep telling her not to mention "climate debt" as well. She dismissed these arguments and continues to speak about it.

    The question I have for India, one of the countries that will be worse impacted by climate change in the world, is why they are still letting US companies extract their resources and push people off their land? Why not kick out US and other western companies? Why is India collobrating in its own demise?

  3. @Bhagwad, you may be right about the reparations. But it seems foolish to give up the principle; among other things, I think it helps us understand what's going on.

    @Chris, That is interesting about Naomi Klein. It seems to suggest a huge lack of confidence among US environmentalists. It's one thing to concede that an issue might not be winnable at the moment; it's another thing to say we should not even talk about it. Glad Klein is refusing to play the game.

    As for the big why question you ask, it's both extremely complex and simple. India's current development model is neither equalizing, nor is it sustainable. But it IS profitable--for some. The current government talks a lot about the "common man", but the budget it is proposing suggests they have decided that they are counting on consumption by the upper middle classes and rich to drive growth. They've got to do this quietly, with hidden taxes, cuts in subsidies to the poor -- and by underfunding their flagship employment and education programs. Interesting article on this in Frontline this month:

    Of course, this is a longer discussion, and it's central to the argument we're trying to make here. Unsustainable development is not ...sustainable! And the consequences of allowing it to continue are great indeed.

  4. Hari, I'm not very familiar with internal Indian politics. Is there any chance the government might change to one that is less likely to cooperate with the US, and look out more for its own people?

    I know in Pakistan Zardari has only single digit support, largely because of his support for US interests, and he will likely be gone soon. In fact most people there view the US as the biggest threat, which I can't really argue with.

  5. Chris,
    The current Congress-led government has a few more years to go. They try to balance populist slogans with a neo-liberal drift. That's an oversimplification, of course. Conventional wisdom has it that they consolidated their power by achieving a more stable coalition in the last election. They no longer have to rely on the Communists, for one thing, who are weakened, and probably on the way out, in two of the states where they govern--for a lot of reasons.

    So the short answer is that we have what we've got for the next few years. And I'm not sure where the genuine alternative would come from in any case. But I don't know if things are ever as stable as they seem. Food inflation is a very volatile issue in a country where something like 800 million people live on 20 rupees a day. And it's likely to get worse in the long term, since it can be driven by failing monsoons or rising fuel prices--and those are things I'd bet we see more, not less of. So I'd say the ground can shift more quickly than we might suppose in this situation. And the mathematics of all the regional parties we've got make that even more so!

  6. Thanks for the insight Hari! I hope for positive changes in the future. The third world is going to have to stick together if they are going to have any success in getting the West to reduce emissions.


What do you think?