Big developing countries harden position ahead of climate talks

Major developing countries China, India, Brazil and South Africa have hardened their joint negotiating position six days before the start of the next summit of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The group known as BASIC released a joint statement in Beijing at the end of minister-level consultations. They demanded that developed countries take the lead to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) that cause global warming.

The responsibility for the outcome of the November 26-December 7 summit in the Qatar capital Doha lay with developed countries, the statement said. “Ministers reaffirmed that the Kyoto Protocol remains a key component of the international climate regime and that its second commitment period is the key deliverable for Doha, and the essential basis for ambition within the regime.” The protocol obliges only industrialised countries to reduce their GHG emissions, and that has become the point of contention. The US has not ratified the protocol, while Russia, Canada and Japan have said they will not pledge any emission reduction in the second commitment period. The first period ends this December. The European Union and recently Australia have said they are willing to pledge reductions during the second period, but that leaves many big emitters outside its ambit.

While some developed countries, led by the US, demand that China, India and other large developing countries take on legally binding emission targets, the BASIC group has rejected that. Tuesday’s statement reiterated that developed countries must take on “more ambitious” emission reduction targets. Current pledges fall 40% short of what scientists say is necessary to stop catastrophic climate change. Still, major governments are not willing to move, and current indications point to another stalemate at the Doha talks.

Developed countries led by the EU had pushed through an agreement at the last climate summit that all countries would negotiate a new protocol by 2015, which would require stronger emission reduction pledges from all countries after 2020. Jayanthi Natarajan, India’s environment minister, had opposed the EU proposal at once and had got it watered down. Now, she and the other three ministers said in their statement that any new treaty should keep intact Kyoto Protocol’s differentiation between developed and developing countries.

Most of the GHG – mainly carbon dioxide – that has been accumulating in the earth’s atmosphere since the start of the Industrial Age has been put there by developed nations, but now China is the world’s largest emitter, followed by the US, India and Russia. Developing countries – especially India – have repeatedly pointed out the inequity inherent in developed countries having taken up most of the available carbon space and then asking developing countries to arrest emissions. But scientists point out that it is in the poor countries’ own interest to move to cleaner forms of development.

Despite the science, the negotiating position of the BASIC group has not changed, as signalled by the ministerial declaration, which said, “The Durban Platform is by no means a process to negotiate a new regime, nor to renegotiate, rewrite or reinterpret the Convention and its principles and provisions.” The convention is the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which enshrines the principle of differentiated responsibility between developed and developing countries to combat climate change.

The BASIC position has been stated repeatedly this year. After a previous ministerial meet in Brasilia on September 20-21, the four governments had also issued a statement asking that developed countries fulfil their commitments to provide money and technology transfer that would help developing countries move towards a greener economy.

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