West not playing its part to tackle climate change: India

June 7th, 2009 - 2:08 pm ICT by IANS  

By Joydeep Gupta
New Delhi, June 7 (IANS) Industrialised countries are nowhere near meeting their legal obligations to combat climate change and are trying to muddy the waters by saying the global problem cannot be tackled unless developing countries do more, says Shyam Saran, India’s chief negotiator at the climate treaty talks.

As the world stumbles towards a climate treaty scheduled to be inked this December in Copenhagen, a key preparatory meet is on in Bonn (June 1-12). Negotiators from around the world are poring over the “negotiating text” expected to lead to the treaty.

Saran, who is the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy on Climate Change, said as the negotiating text stands now, “some parts of it do not correspond to the parameters laid down by the Bali Action Plan and several elements go beyond the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It should not include such formulations”.

“The current exercise is not to renegotiate the UNFCCC but to see how we can enhance it” to tackle climate change more effectively, Saran told IANS in an interview.

Climate change - caused by an excess of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere - is already affecting farm output, leading to more frequent and more damaging droughts, floods and storms and raising of the sea level, with India among the worst-hit countries.

Saran said, “When the UNFCCC talks of sustainable development (SD), it does so because SD includes adaptation to climate change. If you try to change that to a ‘low-carbon development path’, you reduce SD to mitigation of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. You cannot have mitigation as the predominant element” in a treaty.

“The Copenhagen package must be comprehensive and balanced, where mitigation and adaptation is supported by finance and technology transfer to developing countries,” Saran said. “So anything that strays from this is of concern to us.”

Saran said there were many suggestions from industrialised countries that diverged from the UNFCCC, “giving the impression that we are negotiating a new treaty. Any country which wants to do that should use the procedure laid down in the convention. This is very important for us because UNFCCC is the only agreed legal text to address global climate change”.

According to India’s chief negotiator, any quantitative term in the proposed treaty, such as keeping global warming within two degrees Celsius or limiting the concentration of the main GHG carbon dioxide to 450 parts per million, “should be accompanied by clear detailing of equitable burden sharing.

“You cannot just do the arithmetic and say developing countries must play their part. Science cannot trump equity.”

Saran hoped that by the end of the Bonn meeting the negotiating text would be “far more balanced” than it was now.

Talking about the 1997 Kyoto Protocol by which all industrialised countries except the US are legally bound to reduce their GHG emissions by five percent during 2008-12, compared to 1990, Saran said: “Most developed countries are nowhere near meeting their targets.”

“That is why they are trying to muddy the waters,” Saran told IANS. “The latest is Japan saying the baseline should be shifted from 1990 to the current date. All these are efforts to get away from the legal document and to gloss over the fact that they are not meeting their legal targets.

“And when that happens, what is our confidence in the commitments you make for a period 10 years from now? Then you can very well turn around and say the original target was unrealistic.”

What was the status of the commitments made by industrialised countries for the 2008-12 period, Saran wanted to know. “This is the issue being repeatedly brushed under the carpet, the one that the western media ignores,” he said.

India’s chief negotiator was unhappy that there had been no progress in Bonn “in terms of indicating (GHG emission reduction) targets for 2015 or 2020, nor any clarity on having 1990 as the base year, except from the EU (European Union)”.

Saran, who will be in Bonn next week to lead the Indian delegation, emphasised that these points of view were not of India alone, but of all developing countries, which negotiate climate treaties jointly under the umbrella called G77 plus China. The Group of 77 (G77) countries actually has over 130 countries as members.

(Joydeep Gupta can be contacted at joydeep.g@ians.in)

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