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Climate change talks go backwards
Published on 10 Oct. 2009 11:50 PM IST
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The schism between industrialised and developing countries over a global climate treaty widened here Friday as preparatory talks for this December's summit in Copenhagen concluded. Dismayed civil society representatives feared the current differences may be too wide to be bridged. At the heart of the tussle is the European Union move to replace the Kyoto Protocol (KP), a move strongly opposed by India, China and all other developing countries. The protocol is the way through which all countries tackle climate change. "The Kyoto Protocol has gone in the reverse direction," said Shyam saran, who heads the Indian government delegation. "We've been dismayed by lack of willingness of some developed countries to make commitments" under KP to reduce emissions of their greenhouse gases (GHG), which are leading to climate change. "These commitments must be of a scale to meet the challenge of climate change," Saran said. "Instead, what we are seeing are inadmissible attempts to abandon the protocol altogether." "The new concepts being introduced at this penultimate stage (before the Copenhagen summit) will mean abandoning Kyoto Protocol, diminishing commitments and rewriting the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)," he stressed. Asked if there could be a deal in Copenhagen despite this, Saran replied: "How can there be a deal when we have not delivered on the mandate?" Besides the lack of mitigation commitments, he was referring to the money industrialised countries are supposed to provide to help developing countries cope with climate change. The lack of any commitment from industrialised countries on mitigation and financing during the talks here has angered developing countries no end. The European Union said it wanted to replace KP because it wanted to include the US and emerging economies like India and China in the global fight against climate change. This has been another statement that has irked both these countries, which have long held they would not agree to make any legally binding commitments on capping their GHG emissions. Asked if India's current multi-level engagements with the US to move to green technologies meant it would soften its opposition, Saran replied: "Bilateral agreements are no substitute for global rule-based agreements. We do not accept setting aside of the Kyoto Protocol. Global agreements cannot be set aside in such a cavalier fashion." Reacting to this criticism, Artur Runge-Metzger of the European Commission said: "US and advanced developing countries are needed in Copenhagen. A deal that excludes any of them won't be able to stop climate change." "We've been firm supporters of the Kyoto Protocol. The Copenhagen agreement could take quite a number of lessons from it." Anders Turesson, head of the Swedish delegation, said: "Kyoto Protocol will not suffice. We don't intend to drop anything from it, but it must be improved in many respects. We need a broader agreement that includes China and India." Sweden is the current EU chair. Turesson also said current developing country action to fight climate change was "not sufficient, which is one reason we need a new multilateral framework. But nobody is asking the developing countries to do anything new. They needn't be frightened." UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer said: "Countries must step back from self-interest and let common interest prevail. It's urgent that governments bridge the disconnect and show ambition" in the way they plan to tackle global warming. Asked to react to the plan to replace the KP, he said it was "not helpful", but admitted that there were now three proposals on the table - a second commitment period by the industrialised countries under KP, a "new treatment", and the governments "taking a series of decisions". Cutajar, who has been chairing the protracted bickering sessions since Sep 28 here, said: "There are three possibilities now. The Kyoto Protocol, which the US won't ratify; a new instrument similar to the Kyoto Protocol that the US can ratify; or a new instrument that is different." While agreeing that the ball to move the talks forward was in the court of industrialised countries, Cutajar said: "There won't be a deal that does not say what major developing countries are willing to do". Head of the US delegation Jonathan Pershing said: "The core of the deal has to be industrialised countries committing to decarbonise their economies by the mid-century, while countries like India and China take actions that can be quantified and bring their emission levels below business-as-usual in the mid term." He wanted all actions taken by India to be "measurable, reportable and verifiable" by the international community, an idea India has strenuously opposed. The developing country position was put most strongly by Lumumba Di-Aping of Sudan - the current chair of the Group of 77 countries and China. He described the talks here as a "very regretful and unfortunate development which has demonstrated beyond doubt the lack of serious commitment by industrialised countries?" "One after another, industrialised countries are making pronouncements that amount to discarding and killing the Kyoto Protocol?We find it absolutely unacceptable?" Di-Aping said. He recalled that the EU delegate told him they had decided a year ago to move away from the Kyoto Protocol. "It is not honourable to waste 20 months of negotiations? Kyoto Protocol is the lifeblood of any future agreement?It is irresponsible to discard an agreement in order to enter negotiations for another 15 years." Reacting to the developments here, Tasneem Essop of WWF said the developments here in the last few days had "broken down the trust we need to move the negotiations forward". Alden Meyer of the US-based Union of Concerned Scientists said: "Developing countries are justifiably angry at the lack of progress by industrialised countries? This will be a tragic mistake for generations to come." Climate change, caused by excess greenhouse gases in the atmosphere - almost all emitted by industrialised countries over the last 250 years or so - is already reducing farm output; making droughts, floods and storms more frequent and more severe, and raising the sea level. Developing countries such as India are bearing the brunt of these ill effects.

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