Stubborn West throws spanner in climate talks
Attempts to forge a global consensus to battle climate change suffered a serious setback as developed countries tried to wriggle out of any short-term commitment to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and instead, demanded that developing economies such as India and China accept emission reducing targets.
Group of Five leaders from left, India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva, Mexico's President Felipe Calderon, South Africa's President Jacob Zuma, and Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo stand for a group photo at the G8 summit in L'Aquila, Italy on Wednesday, (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
At a meeting of the Major Economies Forum (MEF) in Rome on Tuesday evening, the developed countries tried to renege on their commitment to use 1990 as the base year for reducing emissions. Nor would they spell out what quantum of commitments they would accept in the run-up to 2020. The developed nations insisted that India, China and other emerging economies such as Brazil and South Africa agree to a long-range target for reduction of GHGs with the burden-sharing formula remaining quite ambiguous. The 17 members of MEF who will discuss the issue here on Thursday account for 75% of global emissions, and an agreement among them could have fastpaced the global response to a deepening crisis resulting from changes in the climate. Sources termed the deliberations at the Rome meeting as "tense" with India and China having to join hands to counter pressure from the developed world led by the US.
The India-China partnership had staved off a similar challenge at the Bonn climate change talks where discussions failed to make any headway. Indian sources called the development a step backwards. It was only last month that US and Mexico at the MEF meeting in Mexico had sponsored a draft that recommended an ``aspirational'' goal of halving emission levels by 2050. An aspirational long-term goal for all without a roadmap of how the emission reduction burden would be shared was even then strongly opposed by India and China.
India is not keen to let the negotiations progress only on the long-term goals which would bind them without the industrialized nations putting on the table numbers for the commitments they would take in the second phase of Kyoto Protocol as the first phase expires in 2012. However, the intransigence of developed countries reduced the draft to a bland statement of the professed intensions of the global community to take on the threat of climate change, without any mention of either timeframe or targets. The decision to come out with the draft at all, after the clash between the developed and developing countries, was taken after the US representatives at the Rome meeting cajoled participants into agreeing to put one out. The US insistence was because of the anxiety to organize a face-saver for President Barak Obama who in his capacity as chairman of the MEF is to release the draft on Thursday to coincide with the ongoing G-8 summit. The MEF meeting, US had hoped, would become an important prelude to the UN Climate Conference in Copehenhagen in December. Under the Kyoto Protocol, 36 industrialized countries known as Annexe 1 countries are obliged to reduce their emissions by a fixed percentage below 1990 levels between 2008-2012.
However, barring UK, Germany and a couple of others, they have failed to meet the commitment. Instead, they are seeking to shift the goalpost. Japan has already argued that 2005 be used as the base year in place of 1990 under the Kyoto Protocol. The global downturn has come in handy for the defaulters who have also been insistent that developing countries accept emission reduction targets lower than "business-than-usual" levels, in what marks a major shift away from the principle of "historical responsibility" that enjoined the developed countries to agree to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Though China and India came together in Rome and are expected to stick together as the standoff with the developed world deepens, the two neighbours are hugely different in terms of their contribution to global pollution levels. China accounts for 16% of the total global emissions annually and 3 tonnes per capita. US is comparable with China on an absolute level but its per capita emissions are 20 tonnes. As against this, India's contribution stands at a mere 1.1 tonne per capita and a meagre 4% in absolute terms on an annual basis.