India Warns Against 'Green Protectionism'

US had suggested slapping a tariff on imports from nations that do not require emissions cuts

Earlier this week India warned against rich nations using climate change as a pretext for protectionism, saying it would hurt efforts to reach a new treaty by the end of the year. India's chief climate negotiator, Shyam Saran, was in Washington for talks with President Barack Obama, whom he praised for putting a new emphasis on halting the warming of the planet.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu -- hoping to ease concerns that climate action would worsen the U.S. recession -- has suggested slapping a tariff on imports from nations that do not require emissions cuts to "level the playing field."

Saran, addressing the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, replied: "Most developing countries will argue that we are already starting with a very unlevel playing field. Protectionism under a green label would be a very negative development."

Saran said development in poorer nations "must be at the center" of efforts to fight global warming.

"What you need is really a global collaborative effort to address the issue of climate change, not something which gets linked up with issues of competitiveness," Saran said.

Negotiators meet next week in Bonn to lay the groundwork for a December conference in Copenhagen which is meant to approve a treaty on fighting climate change after 2012, when the Kyoto Protocol's obligations run out.

EU leaders last week refused to put a figure on aid for developing nations to cut greenhouse gases, saying they were waiting to see what the U.S. and emerging economies would put on the table.

India has pledged never to let its per capita emissions exceed those of rich nations and has launched a push to expand solar power -- not fossil fuels -- as it develops a country where some 400 million people lack regular electricity.

But India, like fellow developing world heavyweight China, has refused to commit on emission cuts in the new treaty.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009

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