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India Rejects Binding Committment to Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions

India is sticking its position that it cannot make any binding commitments on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Anjana Pasricha reports on an international conference on sustainable development being held in the Indian capital, New Delhi.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh says India will ensure that its per capita emissions of greenhouse gases never exceed those of developed countries.

Since the country's per capita emissions are far below those of richer countries, that essentially means that India will not commit to reducing carbon dioxide emissions, which many people see as key to slowing climate change.

Prime Minister Singh was addressing a conference on sustainable development in New Delhi Thursday. He says India still needs to pull vast sections of its population out of poverty.

"I am sure participants at this summit will endorse India's stand because you are all concerned about poverty eradication and reducing global disparities in income and wealth. We cannot continue with a global development model where some countries continue to maintain high carbon emissions while the development of options available for developing countries get constrained," said Mr. Singh. "We therefore need to ensure an acceptable standard of living for all our people, but would choose a sustainable path for that development."

Mr. Singh says India will prepare a national plan to tackle issues of climate change by June.

India is the world's fifth largest emitter of greenhouse gases, which many scientists think contributes to global warming. New Delhi has repeatedly rejected demands for specific reduction targets, saying they would hurt its economy. Along with China, India wants Western countries to bear the burden of reducing emissions since they are far larger emitters.

Greenhouse gas emissions come from burning fuels such as oil and coal, and from deforestation. As countries such as India, China and Brazil become industrial powerhouses, their emissions are rising rapidly. By some accounts, China already has the largest emissions, though its per capita figures are well below those to developed nations.

The United States and some other developed countries say that any international agreement to curb global warming by cutting emissions must include the largest developing nations.

Officials from several countries are attending the Delhi Development Sustainable Summit, organized by the Tata Energy Research Institute.

Norway's Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg called for industrialized nations to transfer technology and funds to help developing countries switch to clean technologies.

He said the rich world must play a leading role in reducing the effects of climate change since its emissions are so large.

The conference also heard a fervent appeal from one of the world's tiniest countries for quick action on climate change.

The president of Maldives, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, says his country is already being hurt by changing weather patterns.

"Our fishermen used to predict local weather and ocean current patterns with some accuracy," said Gayoom. "That is no longer the case. The calendar is no longer able to predict weather patterns accurately in either monsoon. Fishermen therefore go out to sea not knowing when the next severe storm would threaten their boat."

The Maldives, a chain of low-lying islands in the Indian Ocean, could be hit hard if warmer global temperatures melt Arctic ice and raise sea levels.

The International Panel on Climate Change said in its latest report that low-lying islands and coastal regions could be inundated by rising sea levels brought about by rising temperatures.