From: Y.P. Rajesh, Reuters
Published October 30, 2007 04:01 PM

Merkel asks India to do more on climate change

NEW DELHI - German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged India, one of the world's biggest polluters, to do more to combat climate change on Tuesday, saying her country was willing to help New Delhi make progress.

Merkel, a former environment minister who has pushed global warming to the top of her international agenda, said rich nations and emerging economies needed to strike a balance over the amount of responsibility they need to shoulder to prevent climate change and not fight over it.

"We have to prove that we are willing to strike a balance," Merkel told business leaders in New Delhi during a four-day visit to India. "Multilateral agreements are of the essence."

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Germany could help India become a more efficient user of energy by sharing technology to avoid "mistakes we made in the industrial countries," she said, speaking through a translator.

"Climate change, beyond the substantive issue that it is, is a very good issue for us to learn to shoulder common responsibilities," she said.

Emerging economies like China and India, also major polluters, are opposed to strict new environmental regulations or energy constraints as they fear such steps could strangle their economic growth.

They demand that industrialized nations, traditionally the chief polluters, bear the brunt of emission cuts.

Scientists say climate change is expected to have a serious impact in South Asia as the region depends on monsoon rains and Himalayan glacier-fed rivers, and has a long coastline.

Receding glaciers could jeopardize water supplies for hundreds of millions of people and rising sea levels could menace cities such as Mumbai and Kolkata, as well as neighboring Bangladesh.

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New Delhi is expected to draw up a national plan to tackle global warming by the end of this year and Indian experts say the country has already achieved substantial energy efficiency.

A joint statement issued at the end of Merkel's talks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the two sides agreed there is an urgent need to find effective and practical solutions to address climate change concerns.

They called on all parties to "actively and constructively" participate in talks to hammer out a new global climate deal to curb emissions after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.

Merkel's visit to India, her first as chancellor, is largely aimed at boosting business ties between the two countries, whose trade touched about 10.5 billion euros ($15 billion) four years ahead of an official target.

Merkel said after her talks with Singh the two countries had agreed to double the $15 billion figure by 2012.

India, Asia's third-biggest economy, has grown at an average of 8.6 percent in the last four years and is expected to maintain a similar rate in the coming years.

However, it needs huge investments in infrastructure. German businessmen traveling with Merkel said New Delhi needed to lift caps set on foreign investment in insurance, banking, retail and telecommunications sectors.

This could push Germany up from its ranking as the sixth largest foreign investor in India, they said, as relations between the two countries blossom after having briefly cooled following India's nuclear tests in 1998.

"I am absolutely convinced that Germany and India can do a lot together and that they also want to do a lot together," Merkel said.

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