During her first official visit to India, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met for closed-door sessions Sunday with India's Minister of Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh. She called for India to take a leading role in reducing emissions.
Ramesh told reporters afterwards, "We are simply not in a position to take on legally binding emissions reductions targets," Asia's Economic Times reported.
Ramesh pointed out, however, that both the United States and India have agreed on the need for "concrete" and "project-oriented" partnerships in various fields including energy efficiency, clean coal, solar energy and energy efficient buildings.
After touring the ITC Green Center in Gurgaon, outside New Delhi, she called the center a "monument to the future," saying it demonstrates "the promise of a green economy" as well as the importance of partnership between the United States and India. The center uses about half the amount of energy as conventional buildings.
Clinton admitted that "the United States and other countries that have been the biggest historic emitters of greenhouse gases should shoulder the biggest burden for cleaning up the environment and reducing our carbon footprint."
She acknowledged that the challenge is to create a global framework that recognizes the different needs and responsibilities of developed and developing countries. "I not only understand, but I agree with the concern of countries like India," Clinton said, alluding to pressures faced by developing countries from the international community to lower emissions.
In that regard, Clinton stressed that the United States "will not do anything that would limit India's economic progress. But we also believe that there is a way to eradicate poverty and develop sustainability that will lower significantly the carbon footprint of the energy that is produced and consumed to fuel that growth."
Despite Ramesh's reservations about legal limits on greenhouse gases, Clinton expressed confidence that "the United States and India can devise a plan that will dramatically change the way we produce, consume, and conserve energy."
She called on India to accelerate its efforts to bring clean power to its people, by expanding the use of renewable energy, particularly for rural electrification "so that hundreds of millions of men, women, and children will have real energy options."
China now is the world's largest emitter. Clinton said that India's greenhouse gas pollution is projected to increase by about 50 percent between now and 2030.
"It is essential for major developing countries like India to also lead," she said, because 80 percent of the growth in future emissions will be from developing countries.
Clinton was accompanied by Todd Stern, U.S. special envoy on climate change, as well as U.S. embassy officials.