India has promised to slow the growth of its carbon emissions by up to 25 percent over the coming decade. The announcement follows similar proposals by China and the United States before the United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen. But, India has ruled out accepting a legally binding cut on greenhouse gas emissions.
Calling India the country most vulnerable to climate change, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh told parliament that by 2020 the country will cut its carbon emissions as measured against its economic output by 20 - 25 percent from 2005 levels.
This means that India will not actually cut emissions - but simply slow their rate of growth over the next decade.
Minister Ramesh says it will be a voluntary and non-binding target.
"So we have an action plan in transportation, in industry, in buildings, in forestry, in various sectors of our economy, which will ensure a 20 to 25 per cent cut in energy intensity between 2005 and 2020," said Ramesh.
The announcement marks a radical shift from India's earlier position that it cannot offer specific goals for slowing the growth of greenhouse gases.
India came under pressure to announce a target after China said last week that it will nearly halve its carbon dioxide output per unit of gross domestic product by 2020. Earlier, the United States also offered to lay out plans to cut carbon emissions.
But Ramesh has ruled out accepting legally binding emission-reduction targets at any deal reached during the upcoming Copenhagen summit. He says India will also not accept a cut off date by which its emissions should reach their peak.
"These are the two complete dark bright red lights, and there is no question of compromising on these two non-negotiables," he said.
India, which has been urging rich countries to give money and technology for shifting to a low carbon growth pattern, has indicated that it could accept international verification of carbon reductions if they are supported by international finance and technology.
The position adopted by India is being watched closely because its cooperation, along with that of China, is considered crucial to tackling the issue of climate change, and enabling a deal at the Copenhagen talks. Both countries are among the world's top polluters.
India and China have decided to adopt a common stand at the upcoming conference, along with several other developing countries.
Minister Ramesh said India also has a strong partnership with several emerging countries.
"But on negotiations we are in the same boat," said Ramesh. "We have a strong alliance with China, a strong alliance with Brazil, a strong alliance with South Africa."
Minister Ramesh says that India is prepared to be flexible at Copenhagen, and is serious about tackling an issue by which it is getting severely impacted.
After announcements that U.S. President Obama and Chinese prime minister Wen Jiabao will attend the Copenhagen summit, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is also reported to be considering attending the conference.