Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's new Council on Climate Change was holding its first meeting in a bid to come up with a clear plan ahead of a key United Nations climate change meeting in Bali in December, but will not set any overall emissions targets.
"India is now responding to the urgency of the situation," said Sunita Narain, council member and director of the New Delhi-based think-tank, the Centre for Science and Environment.
"We have never been very good at stating our position and it is the right time to articulate all the things that India is doing and plans to do to mitigate and adapt to global warming."
India, whose economy has grown by 8-9 per cent a year in recent years, is one of the world's top polluters, contributing around 4 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions as its consumption of fossil fuels gathers pace.
But as a developing nation, India is not required to cut emissions -- said to be rising by between 2 and 3 per cent a year -- under the Kyoto Protocol, despite mounting pressure from environmental groups and industrialised nations.
No Emissions Target
The new national plan will not include any overall emissions target -- the country says it must use more energy to lift its population from poverty and that its per-capita emissions are a fraction of those in rich states that have burnt fossil fuels unhindered since the Industrial Revolution.
Instead the 21-member council, which includes ministers, environmentalists, industrialists and journalists, is likely to consider ways to increase energy efficiency without undermining growth and bolster the contribution of renewable energy sources.
It will also ponder ways to combat the effects of global warming, which threatens the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people on the Indian subcontinent -- potentially one of the most seriously affected regions in the world. "Different ministries like environment and industry and agriculture have all been working separately on climate change so it has been difficult to communicate and coordinate one single policy on the issue," said a senior environment official.
"This council will help us to reach a consensus which suits all sectors and is in the best interests of India."
Receding Himalayan glaciers could jeopardise water supplies for hundreds of millions of people and rising sea levels menace Indian cities like Mumbai and Kolkata, as well as neighbouring Bangladesh, scientists warn.
Floods and droughts could become more common, diseases more rampant and crop yields lower as temperatures rise, they say.
December's UN-hosted meeting will be the first step towards formulating a successor to the Kyoto plan, which lapses in 2012.
China unveiled its own national plan for coping with global warming earlier this year and has promised to hold down per-capita emissions of greenhouse gases, but has also resisted calls for a mandatory cap on carbon dioxide emissions.