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With Copenhagen Summit Approaching, Leading Polluters US and China Undercut Hopes of Substantial Pollution Cuts

Has the UN climate summit in New York just set the stage for disappointment in Copenhagen?

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There's really three parties coming to Copenhagen: the poorest countries; the large, fast-advancing, once poor countries; and the wealthy, established countries. And there's three different issues or more that kind of drive wedges between them. That's why no one who really has followed this process for a long time is confident that Copenhagen will produce some kind of grand, new, comprehensive deal.

ANJALI KAMAT: Anna Pinto, I wanted to ask you -- you're from a region that's directly affected by climate change. Can you talk about what it's like where you are, how climate change impacts the communities where you're living, and why you're in Pittsburgh?

ANNA PINTO: Well, we are in the sub-Himalayan region and in the lower slopes of the Himalayas. We're impacted primarily by two major phenomena. One is the glacial melt in the Himalayas, which exacerbates flooding. And the other is the erratic character that has developed in the monsoon rain, which also causes both drought and flash floods simultaneously. These are the two major climate events that impact us, and they augment each other to escalate the problem even more over the last ten years.

ANJALI KAMAT: And what is India planning to do to combat climate change? Can you talk about the proposal by the Indian minister yesterday at the UN? He spoke quite a bit about this.

ANNA PINTO: Well, as far as I understand it, when you strip away a lot of the goodwill language, India plans to address climate change by continuing its current development trajectory. And that is not a solution. Very often, I think development is posited against climate change action, and that is a fallacy. Climate change action, effective climate change action, whether mitigation or adaptation, would go along healthy development paths, which means cutting out and reducing fossil fuel use. It means reducing high energy and high fossil fuel and high -- highly invasive kinds of development practices. And I don't think India is going along that path at all.

What India is trying to do, basically, if it's analyzed right down up to the ground, is to, in fact, expand its industrial base, to take over holistic, low-energy, self-sustaining and highly sustainable forms of livelihoods from indigenous peoples, from local communities, and convert all these into a high productivity profile, which conforms to the international idea of what development is. And that is probably the biggest mistake India can make for the welfare of its own people, including -- and, of course, most of all, the most vulnerable people, indigenous and local communities, as well as the worst things that can be done in the context of climate change.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk, Anna Pinto, about how climate change effects migration of large populations?

ANNA PINTO: Well, when your land has dried out, years in succession, due to drought and to annual droughts, when your land is flooded during seasons of harvest or when the waters should actually be receding from the paddy fields, you don't have anything in terms of options, except to move away, hopefully to a place where you might get a short-term or a longer-term option for livelihood. That is what is driving massive migrations throughout sub-continental -- not just India, but the whole South Asia region. It's driving migration from Bangladesh into India. It's driving migration from Nepal when there are floods. It's driving migration within India all around the country.

And most of the people end up in slums. They end up at the mercy of all kinds of criminal activities, including traffickers, including sex traffickers. The list of problems that is generated by bad policy and shortsighted policy and policy that really supports the entrenchment of rich people and their interests in the global economy is massive, and it's vicious.

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