Why developed nations don’t want to calculate GHG emission on per capita emission basis?

India will continue to resist pressure to accept binding cuts in its emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) at key climate change talks later this year.

"We expect a fair and equitable outcome, but the global discourse on climate change should not focus only on current emissions," Shyam Saran, the Prime Minister’s special envoy for climate change, said yesterday.

"It should take into account historical emissions." More than 192 countries are expected to participate at a UN conference in Copenhagen in December to work out a global agreement on climate change and cuts in emissions in the period beyond 2012.

Saran cautioned that a pact would be difficult if the developed countries insisted that they would accept reductions in emissions only if developing countries such as India also did so.

India is pursuing a national action plan on climate change aimed at reducing dependence on fossil fuels, but has made it clear such a plan is different from accepting binding international commitments.

China and India are among the developing countries under pressure to agree to emission reduction targets amid mounting evidence that GHG-driven global warming and its consequences threaten vulnerable populations.

Saran said a climate change debate centred on current emissions would "lose sight of historical responsibility".

Climate change is a consequence of emissions building up over the past two centuries, with the biggest contributions from industrialised countries.

India is the third largest GHG emitter in the world after the US and China, but India’s per capita emission of 1.1 tonnes is a fraction of the US per capita of 20 tonnes, and an average of about 10 tonnes for several developed countries.

India can by no stretch of imagination be described as a so-called major emitter. The US and China account for 16 per cent each of global emissions, while India trails with just 4 per cent.

In the past, India has said while it pursues economic development — which would require the use of all available sources of energy in the near future — it would not allow its per capita emissions to exceed average per capita emissions of the developed countries.

India believes that this position "effectively puts a cap" on its emissions which will be lower if rich countries decide to lower their own emissions.

India is expecting an outcome from Copenhagen that commits the rich countries to significant reductions in their GHG emissions.