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India shrugs off charge about weak Rio text


Indian officials are unconcerned about loud complaints by the European Union and Western-backed nongovernmental organisations about the "weak text" of the final declaration of the Rio + 20 summit. 


India is satisfied, having already fended off earlier attempts to remove two key principles. 


The first is the concept of "common but differentiated responsibilities" - namely, that rich and poor countries cannot be expected to equally bear the costs of green policies. The second is that of "equity" - that poorer countries should be allowed to become as wealthy as the nations of the North. The key idea being that the West should be prepared to pay for the green demands it makes on the developing world.


The European Union´s climate commissioner, Connie Hedegaard, tweeted that the text was so weak "nobody in that room adopting the text was happy."


The NGO community was angered by two key text changes. One was the  deletion of a clause calling for the end of fossil fuel subsidies. New Delhi has supported such positions at other fora like the G-20, but probably did not feel it was worth fighting over at the Earth Summit. The other decision, to postpone a governance structure for the high seas by three years, was an issue India had no stand at all.


Europe had also pushed for fixed timelines and hard numbers on a number of environmental targets. It had also wanted a set of sustainable development goals to be included, replacing the present Millennium Development Goals.


However, India and other members of the Group of 77 had blocked such attempts in large part because the European Union and other Western countries were unwilling to provide any funds to the developing world to fulfill such targets. The G-77 countries had asked for $30 billion a year as assistance.


While some NGOs have demanded the draft text be reopened, Indian officials say that the text is already "frozen" - a diplomatic term meaning the governments have all agreed to not allow any more changes.


The Rio + 20 summit is not being taken too seriously by most governments. With the world struggling with yet another financial crisis and inflationary problems, the environment is not a major priority. The decision of the US president, Barack Obama, to give the summit a miss underlined its lack of political heft.


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