NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India will not sign up to targets to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions but will instead focus on fighting poverty and boosting economic growth, the environment minister said Tuesday.
India is one of the world's biggest emitters alongside China, the U.S. and Russia, and the second most populous nation. But India's per capita emissions lag far behind rich countries and it feels the developed world should take the lead on tackling climate change.
"India cannot and will not take emission reduction targets because poverty eradication and social and economic development are first and over-riding priorities," a statement on behalf of Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said.
A legally binding emission reduction target endangers India's energy conservation, food security and transport, he said.
India has laid out its stance ahead of the negotiation of a climate treaty in Copenhagen in December that will replace the expiring Kyoto pact.
Developing nations say rich countries should cut emissions by at least 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. Developed nations say that target is out of reach when they are trying to stimulate recession-hit economies.
India's ruling Congress party secured a convincing election victory in May and is pushing an inclusive growth agenda to help lift hundreds of millions out of poverty.
While it backs market-based measures to promote energy efficiency, India still relies on coal-fired generation to underpin the growing economy.
Ramesh said India will not allow its per capita greenhouse emissions to exceed that of developed countries, and said this amounted to a voluntary cap.
Ramesh also said India would not accept a provision in a U.S. Congress bill which would impose trade penalties on countries who fail to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
(Editing by Robert Woodward)