India fights pressure from rich nations at climate talks

December 2nd, 2011 - 8:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Durban, Dec 2 (IANS) Emerging economies, especially India and China, came under renewed pressure from rich nations Friday to make a legally binding commitment to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, but New Delhi fought back, saying “equity” that would guarantee equal development opportunity to all humans was the “centrepiece” of its strategy.

The Nov 28-Dec 9 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) summit in this South African port city, meanwhile, took a few small steps forward, but was probably going to leave the more contentious issues to be discussed by the dozen-odd heads of state and over 130 ministers who are arriving next week.

In the face of a possible offer from China to turn its voluntary GHG emission controls into a legally binding form, India was under renewed pressure to do the same, or at least to support the Chinese stand. Referring to the pressure as “rumours”, leader of the Indian government delegation Jayant Mauskar said India’s stand was “clear, consistent and compassionate” and that “equity” was its centrepiece.

The cabinet had approved India’s stand on Thursday, he pointed out, and added that at a meeting of the BASIC group of countries — India, China, Brazil, and South Africa — he had not found a shift in any stand.

Mauskar added that he found the “state of play” at the end of the first week “encouraging. From different motives, people (countries) are being considerate of each others’ views, while trying to work within each others’ red lines.”

But, the veteran negotiator said, he would not know if this “hunch” of his was right till he saw the text of the 50-odd agreements that were being negotiated by thousands of bureaucrats from 192 countries.

Mauskar’s guarded optimism was echoed by UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres, who said the negotiators were almost ready with a plan to help poor countries adapt to the effects of climate change, a phenomenon that is hitting them hardest, while it affects farm output worldwide, and makes droughts, floods and storms more frequent and more severe.

But rich and poor countries remained at loggerheads over the critical issue of the Kyoto Protocol - the only legally binding treaty that commits rich countries (except the US, which did not ratify it) to reduce their GHG emissions - mostly carbon dioxide emitted by industry and transport.

The current commitment period runs out next year, and Canada, Japan and Russia have already declared they will not make any commitment for a second period. The US has also said it will not make any legally binding commitment - even outside the protocol - unless emerging economies like China and India did the same. Hence the pressure.

The European Union has now come up with a compromise suggestion, by which rich countries agree to a second commitment period if emerging economies agree to emission controls that will become legally binding after 2020. India has traditionally opposed any such idea and Mauskar made it apparent that it will continue to do so.

Delegates from the world’s poorest countries and small islands at risk from sea level rise due to global warming expressed disappointment at the continued impasse, which blocks any meaningful attempt to either combat climate change or adapt to its effects.

As this year’s summit host, the South African government has been organising a number of Indabas in an effort to narrow down the differences. Indaba is a Zulu word that means an informal meeting of elders, much like the traditional panchayat in India or the jirga in Afghanistan. The Indabas have not yielded any results so far, but the hosts plan to persist with them over the weekend.

(Joydeep Gupta can be reached at joydeepgupta1@gmail.com)

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