8:47 pm - Wednesday November 4, 2015

Obama wants to clinch climate change deal with India during his visit

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WASHINGTON: Beyond all the optics and symbolism of the US president being chief guest at India’s Republic Day celebrations, President Obama is arriving in New Delhi with his eye on at least one big prize: A climate change deal, at least of the kind he has clinched with China.

US officials who previewed the Obama visit with journalists left little doubt that amid a raft of issues that will be on the table, the US president will want to clinch a climate change agreement with India ahead of the December 11 Paris meet, where 195 countries are scheduled to find ways to curb the fossil-fuel gases imperiling earth’s climate system.

The officials, White House insiders Ben Rhodes and Phil Reiner, said they tend not to preview specific deliverables or announcements that the president and prime minister might make together, but maintained that ”we’re not going to have a successful international climate negotiation (in Paris) unless all major emitters are coming to the table.”

”And so the president will have a chance to review with Prime Minster Modi what the US is committed to doing, what India is considering doing in this space, and then how we can work together in the global context to bring about a successful conclusion to those negotiations,” they added, providing an implicit sense of an imminent climate change agreement with India.

”Our most on front burner issue is cooperation on clean energy and climate change… …and the US, China, and India are key to this,” White House NSC senior director Phil Reiner said.

Under a deal clinched with China last month that might offer a template for a US-India agreement, Washington agreed to reduce its emissions by 26 percent to 28 percent below its 2005 level by 2025, and China has made a non-specific commitment to achieve peak of carbon emissions around 2030, and to increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 20 percent by 2030.

Washington appears confident it can persuade New Delhi to commit to a similar deal although India has a far smaller carbon footprint per capita than China and a miniscule one compared to the United States, which is the world’s biggest polluter. The White House appears particularly confident it can do business with Modi after a breakthrough with India last September on what had been an impasse on the Trade Facilitation Agreement within the WTO.’People have long looked at this relationship and seen the fundamentals in place for a really, really close partnership, and yet it’s been a challenge in translating that into outcomes,” Rhodes reflected, adding, ”The president will want to speak to how do we tap into the energy and support in both countries for the relationship and turn that into positive progress on the issues that matter in people’s lives.”

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