In India, a Clear Victor on The Climate Action Front
In the internal struggle over the nation’s climate policy, India’s charismatic Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh has triumphed and is pushing his country toward low-carbon policies both at home and internationally. By Isabel Hilton
On Feb. 19, a brief public statement in Delhi broke the news that the Special Envoy of the Prime Minister on Climate Change, the austere veteran bureaucrat, Shyam Saran, was to quit. The announcement came as a surprise: What had gone wrong?
Within hours, India’s press was pointing to one man as the key to Saran’s departure: the relatively junior figure of the Minister for Environment and Forests, Jairam Ramesh.
Ramesh, though a minister, does not hold cabinet rank. Nor, until last year, was he a figure of international significance. In India’s complex, status-conscious political world, he ranked below the heavyweight Saran, a veteran foreign service official with a secure base in India’s powerful bureaucracy and the solid backing of India’s climate negotiating team.
But in the course of the last 12 months, from what might be rated, at best, a medium rung on Delhi’s ladder of power and influence, Jairam Ramesh has vanquished two senior rivals to emerge as the voice of India’s transformed climate policy. India had previously hung back, adamant that its prime responsibility was to give its citizens a better life, climate impacts notwithstanding. Today Delhi accepts that it is in India’s best interests to be constructively engaged in low-carbon policies both at home and internationally. And in the public battles that have been fought over India’s future responsibilities in climate change diplomacy, it is Ramesh who has triumphed.
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