Delhi meet stepping stone to success at Copenhagen: British minister (Interview)

October 21st, 2009 - 5:27 pm ICT by IANS  

Gordon Brown By Joydeep Gupta
New Delhi, Oct 21 (IANS) The two-day climate change meet starting here Thursday would be an important stepping stone to a successful global treaty at Copenhagen this December, Britain’s Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change Lord Hunt said here Wednesday.

“We share a very strong view with India about the need to be ambitious at Copenhagen,” Hunt told IANS when asked about the possibility of there being a wishy-washy deal due to the current impasse between developed and developing countries over who should cut how much of the greenhouse gas emissions warming the earth.

But, the minister agreed, “there will be lots of toings and froings before we get to the table. In this process, the mood, keeping up the engagement, discussions, are all very important”.

The Delhi meet will be a crucial part of this process, as all the key players are here. Apart from India, the meet is being attended by the environment minister of China and by Hunt, apart from a senior climate negotiator from the US. UN climate chief Yvo de Boer is here too. A large number of meetings have been scheduled on the sidelines of the formal conference.

Hunt declined to answer when asked if Britain would be prepared to ditch the Kyoto Protocol - the current global treaty to fight climate change - to bring on board the US, the only rich country that has not ratified it.

Instead, he said: “You can find all sorts of ways to get there (an agreement in Copenhagen). I see positive signals. Climate opinion in the US has changed.”

Asked to comment on media reports that the Major Economies Forum meeting that ended in London Tuesday was a failure because rich countries would not commit how much they would pay poor countries to combat the effects of climate change, Hunt said: “I would not call it a failure.

“There was a narrowing of differences. There were positive signals from the US that they may be willing to put something on the table in Copenhagen even before they pass domestic legislation on this front.”

Asked if European Union countries would put some money on the table when their finance ministers meet at the end of this month, Hunt told IANS: “I cannot say what they are going to do. But I hope so. I understand the importance of concrete commitments. Our Prime Minister Gordon Brown has spoken of $100 billion per year by 2020.”

Hunt said he was very interested in India’s ambitious plans to move towards renewable energy sources. “We face a mega challenge of energy security too. We hope to work together.” Britain plans to generate 30 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, up from five percent now.

On technological transfer at concessional rates, Hunt was clear that the intellectual property rights (IPR) system must not be disturbed. If that concept is undermined, there will be a lack of investment in research and development, “which is expensive”, he said.

Climate change, caused by an excess of greenhouse gases — mainly carbon dioxide — in the atmosphere, is already affecting farm output, making droughts, floods and storms more frequent and more severe and raising the sea level, with India among countries bearing the brunt of the effects.

Almost all the excess greenhouse gases in the atmosphere now has been put there by rich countries as they used coal and oil to fuel their growth over the last two centuries and more. But now China is the world’s largest emitter, and India is fifth, though per capita emissions in India remain five percent of that in the US.

The current commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol — during which rich countries are supposed to reduce their emissions — gets over in 2012, and the current tussle is over the extent to which these countries will cut emissions thereafter and how much they will pay poor countries to cope with the climate change they have caused.

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