Lord Nicholas Stern of Brentford will today urge India to play a key role in shaping the agenda for the crucial United Nations climate change conference, due to take place in Copenhagen in December 2009, so that developing countries can take a lead in the negotiations this year.

He will say: “India’s low emissions and its challenge of poverty reduction give her moral authority on climate change. And with its strong new government and fine analysts, India is well-placed to take a lead in setting the agenda. Its entrepreneurship and physical endowments mean it can prosper from the new opportunities presented by the low-carbon economy. India has been viewed by many, in my view unfairly, as an obstacle to progress. Now is the time for India to move into the lead on international discussions. The world has only just over four months to find an agreement in Copenhagen in December 2009. India’s role will be vital. There is no more important issue for the well-being of future generations in India and the rest of the world.”

Lord Stern will be delivering the 30th Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Lecture, sponsored by Tata, at Chatham House, London, on the subject of ‘Climate change, internationalism and India in the 21st century’.

He will say: “India, with its dependence on rivers from the Himalayas, its big coastal populations, the importance of the monsoon, and its vulnerability to natural disasters, is one of the countries most at risk from the impacts of climate change. And India, because of its size, will be a crucial player in the global agreement. In these circumstances it is better to lead than to wait for others to propose.”

Lord Stern, who is I.G. Patel Professor of Economics and Government, director of the India Observatory in the Asia Research Centre and chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science, will point out that “very powerful reductions” in greenhouse gas emissions, relative to ‘business-as-usual’, will be needed in China and India if a global cut of 50 per cent, relative to levels in 1990, is to be achieved by 2050.

He will say: “But with good policies, new technologies and external financial support, these reductions need not curb growth. On the contrary, there could be a surge in investment and innovation. There is tremendous scope in India for energy efficiency, new technologies and increasing, not reducing, forest cover.”

Lord Stern, who has been working in India for 35 years, will urge developing countries to set an agenda that not only challenges rich countries, which are responsible for the bulk of past emissions, but also contains a “commitment to commit” to reduction targets within five to ten years, cutting emissions by 20 per cent in absolute terms by 2050 compared with 1990.

But he will also stress that developing countries should set four main conditions for taking on these targets:

  • strong performance by the rich countries over the next decade towards meeting targets for 2020, 2025 and 2030, which are tough and fully consistent with a path to reductions in emissions of at least 80 per cent by 2050 relative to 1990;
  • financial support through the markets and elsewhere for action in the developing world, and strong support in the battle against deforestation;
  •  rich countries to develop new technologies for low-carbon economic growth, which should be shared with developing countries;
  • and substantial assistance in adaptation to the impacts of climate change over the next few decades which are now inevitable.

Lord Stern will add: “This would be a framework for discussion where the developing world would explain to the rich world what is necessary and place the conditionality and performance requirements on them.”

He will point out that the total annual flow of finance from rich countries to the developing world for both mitigation and adaptation would likely have to be around USD200 billion per annum by the 2020s.

Lord Stern will argue that India has strong growth prospects for the next few decades, but they depend on, first, continuation of economic reforms, second, improvements in governance, and third, on stronger inclusion of women, rural areas and lagging states.

He will say: “Stronger participation of these groups will both strengthen the fight against poverty, India’s first priority, and enhance growth.” He will draw on his own experience of following one village for 35 years and tracking its integration into the Indian economy to illustrate his point.

Lord Stern will say: “With strong growth and poverty reduction, vibrant democracy and increasing influence on the major international issues of the day, particularly climate change, India will be central to international economics, politics and governance in the coming decades.”

Notes for Editors

  1. The Jawarharlal Nehru Memorial Trust was founded in 1966 on the initiative of Earl Mountbatten of Burma to commemorate the first Prime Minister of India. It awards scholarships to Indian students to study at British universities and sponsors a memorial lecture.
  2. The Tata group of companies operate in seven business sectors: communications and information technology, engineering, materials, services, energy, consumer products and chemicals. They are, by and large, based in India and have significant international operations. The total revenue of Tata companies, taken together, was USD62.5 billion (around Rs251,543 crore) in 2007-08, with 61 per cent of this coming from business outside India, and they employ around 350,000 people worldwide. The Tata name has been respected in India for 140 years for its adherence to strong values and business ethics.
  3. The India Observatory  was established within the Asia Research Centre at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) to foster research and knowledge exchange related to India. It was set up in partnership with the Reserve Bank of India and the State Bank of India.
  4. The Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment was launched at the London School of Economics and Political Science in October 2008. It is funded by The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment.
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