In an effort to find a consensus at the fag end of the climate change conference in Cancun, India has made a major deviation from its normal stand by agreeing that its domestic mitigation actions would be legally binding in nature.
"All countries must agree to a legally binding commitment under an appropriate legal form," environment minister Jairam Ramesh said at a plenary of the United Nations-sponsored climate change summit in the Mexican city.
The statement was not part of a prepared speech, which he read at the plenary.
This is a major departure in the 17-year climate talks, as India had thus far led developing countries in the stance that global warming was a problem caused by rich countries, and it was up to rich countries to reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
China has recently overtaken the US as the largest GHG polluter, accounting for 22 per cent of global emissions. The US is second with 19 per cent and India third with five per cent, though India's per capita emissions are one-twentieth that of the US.
The US is the only rich country that has not ratified the Kyoto Protocol - the sole global treaty that obliges rich countries to reduce their GHG emissions. For years, the US has been insisting it will not get into any legally binding agreement to do so unless China and India do the same.