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The Commonwealth — a grouping of Britain and many of its former colonies that is home to more than 2 billion people — includes industrialized economies such as Canada and Australia, resource-hungry India and small island states vulnerable to rising sea levels.
Two weeks ago in Turkey, India blocked efforts by the G20 countries to prepare for an ambitious climate accord. John Kerry, US secretary of state, recently praised China but expressed concern about the “challenge” of India and its desire to burn more dirty coal for electricity. “We’ve got a lot of focus on India right now to try to bring them along,” he said
President Barack Obama is to meet President Xi Jinping of China and Narendra Modi, the Indian prime minister, in Paris on Monday to try to ensure a successful summit, and Mr Modi has already promised co-operation. “We need power but we will not create problems for the world,” said the Indian prime minister.
In both cases, Mr Modi seeks to remind the West of its promises to help finance the developing world’s fledgling green industries - promises he says it has failed to honour.
Either way, Mr Kerry’s "challenge" comment was received with fury in New Delhi. Officials here are quick to point out that it still burns less coal than the US or China - and besides, the West has been profiting from pumping out carbon for decades.
“Kerry’s comment is unwarranted and unfair. The attitude of some of the developed countries is the challenge for the Paris conclusion,” said Prakash Javadekar, India’s environment minister. India is "not in the habit of taking any pressure from anybody", he added.
“This smacks of a ‘carbon imperialism’,” wrote Arvind Subramanian, the Indian government’s chief economic advisor. “And such imperialism on the part of advanced nations could spell disaster for India and other developing countries.”