The leaders of India and Afghanistan are urging advanced industrialized nations to lead the way in cutting the emissions blamed for global warming. The two are meeting in the Indian capital for economic cooperation talks and say a lifestyle of less consumerism is crucial to avoiding the worst effects of climate change.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh joined Afghan President Hamid Karzai at a climate change conference here in New Delhi, Thursday, saying it is the duty of government to back up environmental regulations with strict enforcement.
"We must put in place a structure of regulatory policies which will prevent potentially damaging behavior," he said. "Standards are not enough. They must also be enforced, which is often difficult."
Singh says India will hold polluters financially accountable for violating environmental standards - especially in the country's most energy-intensive industries.
"The polluter must pay," he said. This will discourage the polluters and also also provide a means of financing the corrective steps necessary to counter the pollution cost."
Singh pointed out that, even if India were able to eliminate all its greenhouse gas emissions, it would not make a serious difference to the global climate, because India's emissions only account for four percent of the global total. He reaffirmed India's pledge to hold its per capita emissions below that of the advanced industrial economies.
Global climate change conferences have failed to bridge a divide between advanced and developing nations, in recent years. Countries like India say they need economic growth to provide basic services for millions of people living in desperate poverty. Advanced economies fear massive damage to the environment, if developing nations emulate their own fossil-fuel driven model of economic prosperity.
President Karzai echoed Prime Minister Singh's call for a profound world shift in lifestyles away from consumerism. He says his own country has felt the negative effects of consumerism, with the increased flow of aid and investment to Afghanistan over the years.
"Kabul, the city that I remember as a boy, is no longer breathable," said Karzai. "The pollution that we have today in our cities is our own making. It is because of our consumerism and the use of excessive motor vehicles and fossil fuels and all that."
Karzai and Singh were scheduled to hold a summit later Thursday, to discuss economic partnership. India is the world's fifth largest donor to Afghan reconstruction efforts.