Telling India the hard facts on climate – a lone voice

On climate, campaigners are unbelievably craven when it comes to the big emerging economies. China, in particular, gets treated with kid gloves. Within NGO circles, it is now more or less obligatory to kowtow to Beijing’s domestic track record on clean energy. Which is all very well – but I see absolutely no signs of Chinese leadership internationally (although its track record in the G20 shows how quickly it can pull out its finger when hard economic issues are at stake).

Weakness on China is especially egregious now that the country is above average global per capita emissions. Campaigners should be demanding that China ties itself to a date when its emissions will peak and then to commits to deep cuts by mid-century. (Armed with such a commitment, of course, China itself could then begin to turn the heat up on America – rather than allowing the US congress to bleat about US competitiveness.)

A failure to ask hard questions of China is bad for lower income countries. Not only will they suffer worst as the climate changes, they are going to wake up in ten years’ time to find that most of the global carbon budget for 2 degrees has been spent. Their interests are being sacrificed on the altar of G77 solidarity, with the global NGO community helping sharpen the knife.

The problem is similar, if less extreme, for the world’s other rising powers. Their per capita emissions may be lower than China’s and NGOs less terrified of offending them. But still, a country like India has 17% of the world’s population – which gives it quite a stake in our collective future. It is also massively vulnerable to a changing climate (especially as a lack of water disrupts food production).

Malini Mehra

But yet India is notoriously rubbish at international climate talks. So all the more credit to Malini Mehra, from the Center for Social Markets, for her persistent (and unusual) attempts to shine a light on India’s failings.

“In recent months, India has sought to challenge its image overseas, and in growing quarters at home, as recalcitrant and obstructionist on climate change,” she writes in her latest critique.

“[But] in a showdown this week with the old guard, the reformist environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, had to tone down his climate advice to India’s Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh. Political correctness won, but the loser was India’s climate security.”

Here’s the rest of her analysis: Continue reading

On the web: 1989 anniversary, climate predictions, and India’s relations…

– With the upcoming anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Timothy Garton Ash surveys the current debate about the causes behind those dramatic events twenty years ago. Commenting on the role of the superpowers, he suggests: “They made history by what they did not do… both giants stood back partly because they underestimated the significance of things being done by little people in little countries.” Adam Roberts, meanwhile, explores how civil resistance has fared around the world since 1989. When confronted with the reality of power politics, he suggests, choosing the right time for action from the bottom-up is critical.

– Looking to Copenhagen, Bruce Bueno de Mesquita propounds the predictive capacity of game theory and rational choice theory to explore what the climate negotiations might hold. Der Spiegel, meanwhile, has a report about the Danish island of Samso – at the forefront of the country’s green revolution.

– Elsewhere, Robert Skidelsky assesses the current debate raging between New Keynesian and New Classical economists over the financial crisis. Fully grasping the “implications of irreducible uncertainty for economic theory”, he suggests, would lead to a better understanding.

– Finally, Mihir Bose explores the contemporary state of Anglo-Indian relations, suggesting that fragility, rooted in history, is still very apparent. And with Indian and Chinese officials set to meet, Kapil Komireddi argues that rivalry between the two rising superpowers will come increasingly to define the 21st century.

On the web: overconfident bankers, China on the high seas, the Iraq War Inquiry and the Geneva Conventions…

– Writing in the New Yorker, Malcolm Gladwell explains how “the roots of Wall Street’s crisis were not structural or cognitive so much as they were psychological”. Overconfidence among bankers, he suggests, in addition to the more familiar arguments about poor regulation and simple incompetence, played a significant role in the financial crisis.

– The Prospect blog, meanwhile, discusses how “the Indian Ocean is emerging as a focus for Chinese logistical and naval expansion” – something being felt acutely in Washington and New Delhi. Staying with the US and India, WPR takes an interesting look at Hillary Clinton’s recent trip to South Asia.

– Elsewhere, the Channel 4 News blog has more details about the UK’s upcoming Iraq War Inquiry – suggesting that it is due to hear “mountains of evidence” and, given the expansive nature of its remit, is unlikely to have lawyers present.

– Finally, Adam Roberts has an interesting piece in The World Today assessing the current state of the Geneva Conventions. Sixty years later, he ponders, are the laws of war still relevant to the changing nature of conflict?

Four key risks for India’s next PM

Indian writer Aravind Adiga yesterday offered the winner of India’s election a heads-up on four emergencies likely to test them early in their term of office. Two of them – terrorism, and India’s fiscal position – aren’t any great surprise.  The other two?

Three: In the past few weeks, the Naxals – Maoist guerrillas who operate in the desperately poor states of north and central India – have attacked a major aluminium mine, killed voters and policemen, and disrupted trains. The Naxal insurgency, which taps into the resentment of those left out or threatened by the economic boom, has grown steadily in the past five years. Yet most urban Indians still think of it as an obscure menace that is “out there” – far from the cities and towns.

This is likely to change. The emboldened guerillas look set to escalate their war against the Indian state in the months ahead. Attacks on industries, mines, police stations and trains are likely to rise; a spectacular strike that grabs national and international attention is on the cards. Understaffed local police and corrupt regional politicians will not be able to deal with the Naxals without significantly greater assistance from New Delhi.

Four: India’s population continues to grow and demand for water – for irrigation, industrial and personal consumption – keeps mounting; yet no government has given enough thought to husbanding the country’s water resources. Tensions over the use of water simmer across India. Sooner or later, they will explode. In the months after a bad monsoon, for example, there could be a flare-up between neighbouring regions over the use of a shared river; this could lead to strikes and protests that paralyse parts of the country.

Here’s the go-to site on Naxalites, btw.

A heard of Tory GOATS?

Something odd is happening. Though the Tories are cruising for electoral success, many sympathisers are worried that the party has neither the policies nor personalities to make a success of government.

In the City, many bankers and businessmen are unimpressed by George Osborne. People in the defence establishment think Liam Fox is a lightweight. And foreign policy-watchers like William Hague, but worries that he is only working part-time.

When David Milliband offered a duff analysis of international terrorism in The Guardian and managed to insult the Indian government, there was hardly a peep from the Tory frontbench, through the strategic and electoral reasons to speak up are obvious.

This may not prevent the Tories from wining an election, but it could make their time in government look a lot like Labour’s 1997-2001 term – full of intentions and spin, but short on delivery.

It will take more than an “Implementation Unit” to change this. However, George W Bush, Barack Obama and Gordon Brown may have shown the way out of this predicament. They have all brought outsiders or retired officials back into government. Bush brought back General Pete Schoomaker as Army chief and, famously, made Roberts Gates Defence Secretary. Obama has appointed retired admiral Denis Blair as the U.S spy chief and made the Nobel Prize winner Steven Chu Energy Secretary. Brown, meanwhile, has packed the Lords with outsiders, Peter Mandelson just being the most famous (and powerful).

Forgetting for a moment the constitutional problems presented by having too many peers in government as well as the problems arising from having apolitical ministers (like Shriti “Green Shoots” Vadera) what would a line-up of Tory GOATS look like? Readers will have their own views, but to kick-start the discussion here is my list:

1. Arcadia’s Phillip Green as Business Secretary
2. Olympian Sebastian Coe as Sports and Culture Secretary
3. Environmentalist Zac Goldsmith to head the Climate & Energy Department
4. The Times Foreign Affairs Editor Bronwen Maddox as National Security Adviser
5. Former General Rupert Smith as Chief of Defence
6. Ex-AVIVA boss Richard Harvey as International Development Secretary
7. Joel I Klein as Education Secretary (why not a Yank?)
8. Para-Olympian Chris Holmes as Veteran Affairs Secretary

It may also be wise to appoint a number of junior ministers from outside Westminster (though I confess to believing each department ought to have only one “Deputy Secretary of State”, not scores of Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries).  In the Ministry of Defence, for example, I’d make someone like NATO’s Jamie Shea a junior minister or Ronnie Flanagan a Deputy Home Secretary.

What do you think?

Export-led growth: not so resilient

As David just noted, this morning’s Lex column in the FT is relatively upbeat about the dangers of protectionism, arguing that “the disaggregation of global supply chains, the source of the huge efficiencies that companies pass on to consumers, will not be easily undone.”

Whether or not that’s right (and like Willem Buiter, Martin Wolf is also a good deal more downcast than the Lex team), it’s interesting to compare today’s Lex column with what they had to say about capital flows to emerging markets just a couple of days ago.  Here’s the bit that made me sit up:

Take Brazil and India, the globe’s ninth and 12th biggest economies, according to the International Monetary Fund’s latest estimates. While the developed world is expected to shrink by 2 per cent this year, the IMF reckons Brazil will grow by 2 per cent, and India by 5 per cent. Why? One answer is that they have stable banks, relatively closed economies, and large internal markets. This has insulated them from much of the global turmoil.

The contrast with East Asia is stark. Singapore’s economy shrank at an annualised 17 per cent rate at the end of last year, South Korea by some 20 per cent. Yet this is not for lack of capital. Asian economies, after all, are global creditors. Their economies have shrunk instead because they are heavily oriented towards collapsing international trade. Meanwhile, their local markets are undeveloped and weak. Asia’s challenge is how to best deploy its accumulated surpluses to boost domestic demand.

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China – still dodging on climate

In an interview with the FT yesterday, Wen Jiabao sets out China’s negotiating position in the run up to the Copenhagen climate negotiation. Three main points:

  • Green stimulus as part of the response to the financial meltdown.
  • Domestic action to increase energy intensity by 4% a year (“We failed to meet the targets in the first two years of the five year period, and we succeeded in meeting the target in 2008.”)
  • No quantified emissions targets for China – the country is still at an early stage of development and “in terms of per capita greenhouse gas emissions, we are certainly not the biggest one.”

How strong is China’s position? Not very, I think. China is obviously right to expect the rich world to do more, but if they accept tough targets and China refuses to, then there are two consequences. 450ppm stabilization becomes impossible – and it’s the rest of the G77 that will end up with a highly inequitable deal.

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