India makes emotional plea for its people's basis development

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Asserting that equity has to be centrepiece of climate talks, India on Saturday slammed developed nations for not doing enough to combat global warming as it made an 'emotional' appeal for space for basic development for its 1.2 billion people and poverty eradication.

In the midst of growing criticism, Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan told delegates from 194 countries that India -- which is being seen as 'deal-breaker' for not agreeing to a legally binding treaty -- was not holding up the climate talks.

India along with US and China is under pressure to accept a legally binding treaty proposed by the EU, which would be signed by 2015 and come into force by 2020.

"I was astonished and disturbed by the comments of my colleague from Canada who was pointing at us as to why we are against the roadmap," she said. "I am disturbed to find that a legally binding protocol to the Convention, negotiated just 14 years ago is now being junked in a cavalier manner."

"Countries which had signed and ratified it are walking away without even a polite goodbye," she said. "And yet, pointing at others."

Natarajan's strong words received huge applause and a standing ovation on a day when India was described as a stumbling block to the talks here.

"It is a factual statement, it is an emotional statement," the minister told reporters later.

Natarajan, during her speech, asserted that India was not a major emitter. "I am from India and I represent 1.2 billion people," she said. "My country has a tiny per capita carbon footprint of 1.7 tonne and our per capita GDP is even lower."

As a developing country, "the principles of equity and CBDR (common but differentiated responsibility) are central for us," the minister said.

Natarajan said that "India is asking for space for basic development for its people and poverty eradication. Is this an unreasonable demand?"

The EU Roadmap is backed by the Alliance of Small Island States, which want the treaty to come into force as earlier as next year.

The island nations are especially vulnerable to the rising sea levels and have been pushing for China and India to accept carbon emission cuts.

"I was also deeply moved listening to the comments of my colleagues and friends from the small island states," Natarajan said. "Our positions may be different, but their sentiments resonate with me very strongly."

"India has 600 islands which may be submerged, we have deltaic region in which millions of people live," she said. "We are absolutely at the forefront of the vulnerability of climate change."

The climate talks in Durban, which were set to conclude yesterday, were spilling to one more day. Delegates had been negotiating for hours at stretch and well into the night.

India has expressed anger at the developed world for shifting the burden of its 'historical responsibility' on the developing nations.

Indian diplomats have angrily pointed out that the developed countries did not deliver on their promises of mitigation, adaptation and technology under the Kyoto Protocol, which is the only legally binding treaty on climate change.

India wants the developed world to shoulder the international burden of reducing its carbon emissions since eradicating poverty remains its overriding priority.

"Former Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi said that poverty is the greatest polluter and development is the greatest healer," Natarajan said. "Equity has to be the centrepiece of the Climate discussion and our negotiations should be built on it."

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