India, China to harmonise developing country positions

NEW DELHI: As Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh prepares to leave for Copenhagen on Thursday, negotiators from India and China are “working hard to harmonise” the position of BASIC countries (emerging economies Brazil, South Africa, India and China) with the AOSIS (Alliance of Small Island States that includes Mauritius) countries among the developing nations at the Climate Change summit.

According to an analyst, both India and China are under pressure to make binding commitments from the developed countries and realise that they need to work closely together, whatever their other differences, to ward off pressure on mitigation measures.

“The issue at the heart of the conference is how to harmonise the cause of development

and poverty alleviation with sustainable climate change,”

said India’s Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao. “We understand the critical concerns of the smaller island states, and we are working hard to help address them,” Rao said, but “at this stage of our development it will not be possible for us to accept legally binding emission cuts.”

The AOSIS have sought binding emission cuts and temperature curbs not only from the developed countries but also from the emerging BASIC countries, taking a position that goes beyond the Kyoto Protocol or the Bali Action Plan of 2007.

While Rao was “hopeful” of a positive outcome from the Copenhagen summit, she said India was “realistic” and there was a “life beyond Copenhagen,” clearly indicating fading hopes of any binding “numbers on the table” from the developed countries or anything beyond a generally acceptable but not binding political document at the summit which concludes on Friday.

“What we want is an effective and equitable outcome from Copenhagen” and “credible numbers” put on the table by the developed countries towards mitigation of climate change’s adverse effects, Rao said, but declined to quantify the figure India is seeking. Leaders from around 110 countries, including China, the United States, India, Bangladesh and Britain, present for the concluding high-level segment of the conference in Copenhagen will not make country-specific statements, but will be involved in an interactive session of consultations that may retrieve some commitments beyond 2012 until when the Kyoto Protocol is valid.

In Copenhagen however, India’s environment minister Jairam Ramesh indicated that Kyoto

had been passed over by the

developed countries, and

discussions at the conference lack clarity and were still in danger of breaking down.

“The sense we get is that Kyoto (Protocol) is in intensive care if not dead,” Ramesh told reporters.

Developing countries want rich nations to be held to their Kyoto obligations, and sign up to a second round of tougher commitments from 2013. But Ramesh said many developed countries were “vehemently opposing” the protocol and some of them wanted a single new accord obliging all nations to fight global warming.

The talks are stuck on the question of who should cut emission of planet-warming gases, by how much and who should pay.

India’s Foreign Secretary reiterated India’s ‘red lines;’ by which India would not accept any legally binding emission cuts, would not accept any peaking year for emission cuts and would not accept any foreign inspections to verify any voluntary mitigation measures the country would undertake. Rao, however, denied that the country was part of the problem, stressing that “we have a constructive attitude” and “are not part of the nay sayers.”

“It appears that the developed countries are not prepared for a comprehensive outcome at Copenhagen that would bind them to fulfil the commitments for emissions reductions under Kyoto protocol and the UNFCCC (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change),” Rao said.

“We need to ensure that this expression of a fresh political commitment does not become a template for a new mandate that detracts from the Bali Action Plan (BAP) and dissolves the

fundamental differentiation in the nature of commitments/actions amongst developed and developing countries as visualized in the BAP,” Rao said.

Developing nations are under intense pressure at the conference to be accountable over steps they take to fight climate change, through what the United Nations refers to as “measurable, reportable and verifiable” (MRV) actions. Ramesh said there was no agreement on this: “The MRV issue is a very serious divider.”

The conference, Ramesh said, is likely to produce two separate texts — an agreed draft on the Kyoto Protocol and another on climate actions by most countries — in the hope of sealing a full treaty next year, likely to be held in Mexico in the second half of 2010, to succeed the Kyoto Protocol.

According to reports from Washington, US President Barack Obama will make an attempt to convince India and China that it is in their interest to curb emissions as he goes to attend the climate summit in Copenhagen.

According to spokesman PJ Crowley, Obama and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have, in their discussions with the Indian Prime Minister and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, set forth two primary US objectives. In an op-ed piece in the International Herald Tribune, Clinton said, “A successful agreement depends upon a number of core elements, but two are shaping up to be essential: first, that all major economies set forth strong national actions and resolve to implement them; and second, that they agree to a system that enables full transparency and creates confidence that national actions are in fact being implemented.”

Singh and Wen are likely to meet in Copenhagen tomorrow to further “harmonise” their positions, after their telephonic conversation last week, before the interactive session of the summit begins.