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January 1, 2009 / Mridul

Obama Seeks to Inspire China, India to Do More in the Fight Against Climate Change

President-elect Barack Obama recently assembled his ‘dream green team’ which comprises of some of the best scientific minds of America. This green team symbolizes United States’ first real departure from the ideas that the Bush administration had regarding climate change. Obama seeks to use their expertise to not only create a low-carbon economy while creating new jobs but also, in doing so, set example for developing nations so that they could be persuaded to do the same.

While the previous administration ignored the suggestions of the scientific community and silenced even those working directly under it, the Obama administration has given clear indications that scientific knowledge will be the center piece of all policy matters regarding environment. Another important aspect of this administration is that it plans to solve the economic crisis, the problem of rising carbon emissions and energy security with a unified action plan. This would be very important in demonstrating to the world that United States under the leadership of Barack Obama is serious in fighting climate change.

President-elect Barack Obama has his work cut out – cut carbon emissions, create new jobs and ensure energy security. All these goals lead to the bigger and more important issue of inspiring and pressurizing other nations to cut emissions and fight climate change, especially the developing countries like China, India and Brazil.

All the scientists appointed by Obama are strong proponents of government leading the fight against climate change by proactively taking steps to reduce carbon emissions building pressure on the private sector to follow suit. Steven Chu, who has been chosen as the Secretary of Energy, has blamed fossil fuels for climate change and proposes use of clean and renewable sources of energy.

Some of the top polluters in the world, India and China have dodged all demands of the developed nations to reduce their carbon emissions saying that their per capita emissions are much less than those of the developed nations. They point out that the developed nations haven’t fulfilled their obligations under the Kyoto Protocol and they should first bring down their own emissions to those set levels. The developing nations also want technological and financial help to replace the polluting systems with clean and energy efficient systems.

But since the developed nations are suffering from the wrath of the economic recession more than the developing nations it seems completely unjust to demand financial aid at this critical moment. Instead they should proactively step up their efforts to cut carbon emissions but since they are reluctant to make any compromises they need to be inspired and pressurized. Obama can take the initiative and show them that emissions can be cut and jobs can be created even in the time of grave economic troubles.

China sits with huge reserves of foreign exchange and while it has made big investments in renewable energy it needs to do much more to reduce the use of fossil fuels. India unveiled a nation-wide solar energy plan but so far it hasn’t moved out of the drawing board. Both argue that any attempt to curb emissions would stunt their economic growth.

British government’s chief scientific advisor on climate change and former Chairman of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, while talking about Obama’s plans, clearly stated the need of coordinated effort between the developed countries to cut an emissions reduction deal with the developing countries.

With Europe working the US, we then have a real possibility of bringing India, China, Brazil and other large developing countries on board. But we have to show that the US is willing to act first. If the US is willing to act in concert with Europe and Japan then I believe we can find a fair and equitable agreement for India, China and Brazil.

If Obama manages to create 5 million jobs which he has promised and control the emissions or even slow down the increase in carbon emissions, the developing countries would come under tremendous pressure to take some action. United States is not a party to the Kyoto Protocol and, under the Bush administration, has resisted all calls to take the initiative but as the experts around the world are pointing out the climate policy can change ‘almost overnight’ with the new administration in office next year.

This article was first posted on Red, Green and Blue.

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