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Opposition walks out of Rajya Sabha on climate change

Written By Gopal Krishna on Monday, December 07, 2009 | 2:58 AM

The opposition walked out of the Rajya Sabha today protesting what it termed ‘the turnaround’ in India’s stance on climate change, even as the government sought to assure the house that this was not so.

‘There is no compromise on India’s national interest,’ Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh said during zero hour.

He added that the 25 percent cut in emissions intensity that India had announced were ‘purely voluntary and not internationally binding’.

‘We were completely dissatisfied with this reply and are walking out,’ said the leader of the opposition in the house, Arun Jaitley, who raised the issue. Immediately, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MPs walked out.

The BJP members were soon joined in by MPs from the Samajwadi Party, the Left and the AIADMK.

The Copenhagen climate change talks began Monday.

The Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's foreign itinerary has irked the entire Opposition. Arun Jaitley, BJP's floor leader in the Rajya Sabha, said: " Singh will be missing a month- long Parliament session thrice because of his foreign visits, including the sudden programme to go to Copenhagen. He is doing this at the insistence of developed countries, and at the cost of attending Parliament sessions." The Left has been more direct. Basudeb Acharia, CPM floor leader in the Lok Sabha, said: " Parliament was supposed to meet on November 9 and the PM is certainly aware of the schedule. All of us ( the MPs) plan issues around Parliament session.

Why did the PM make these programmes during the session? He shouldn't have done this." Acharia said if the PM was absent for a couple of days during the session, due to " urgent reasons", that could have been excused. But an absence of 14 days during a month- long session is " unacceptable". Not surprisingly, the Congress defended the PM's foreign itinerary.

Party spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi, taking the BJP head on, said: " It appears that the BJP defines its role as an Opposition only to show that they must oppose an issue. Obviously, the BJP does not share India's pride in the PM being the first head of state invited by President Obama. The BJP does not realise the importance of strengthening ties with India's oldest ally Russia, nor the vital importance of climate change."

Prime Minister will spend nearly half of the ongoing winter session abroad and the Opposition has already started 'missing' him.

The PM was absent during most of the first week this Parliament session. He was on a trip to the US on President Barack Obama's invitation. This was followed by Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Trinidad and Tobago, where he met several world leaders - British PM Gordon Brown, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Sri Lankan PM Ranil Wickremanayake - on the sidelines.

Parliament, during the first week, took up the crucial issue of price rise and measures to tackle it. And it was left to finance minister Pranab Mukherjee to face the Opposition's music.
Now, the PM has left on his second foreign trip, to Russia, to finalise the civilian nuclear agreement and discuss issues related to terrorism.

He is scheduled to meet Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
His third trip is scheduled on December 17 and 18, when he will go to Copenhagen for the world climate change summit. The Parliament session is supposed to end by then.

Terming Government’s decision to announce unilateral cuts in carbon emissions as a “bad” negotiation strategy, BJP today accused it of succumbing to the pressure of developed countries.

“BJP has serious reservations against the unilateral cuts in emissions announced by Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh during the Lok Sabha debate on climate change yesterday.

“It is bad strategy on the eve of Copenhagen summit to announce unilateral stance without waiting for the approach of the developed countries,” Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley told reporters here.

To a question on the reason behind the decision to unilaterally announce the cuts, Jaitley simply said the government succumbed to the pressure from developed countries. “It could be pressure from the United States and China. I am not very sure,” he added.

When asked if the stand adopted by Ramesh was that of the Government, Jaitley merely said the Environment Minister had remarked in Lok Sabha yesterday that his stand on the issue was that of the Prime Minister and if he (Ramesh) deviates, he would lose his job.

The BJP leader also found it “curious” the insistence of the developed countries that the PM should attend the Copenhagen meet.

Jaitley also slammed Ramesh for "rubbishing" India's earlier approach as “do nothing approach”. “The argument that our earlier approach was 'that we are not responsible for climate change and we have a right to emit as much as developed countries have done' makes a mockery of the programmes undertaken by successive governments in the past with regard to environment protection,” he said.

The BJP leader referred to the inputs from the Planning Commission and "other sources" considered by the Environment Minister before formulating the country's changed position and wondered whether he was willing to share the data with the common man.

“Is he merely referring to reports prepared by international consultants who have an inherent interest in the economies of the developed countries?” he said.

The BJP also accused the minister of being “carried away by the bandwagon effect of some nations announcing unilateral cuts.”
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