Durban climate negotiations to heat up in second week

By Richa Sharma, IANS,

New Delhi : As the divide between the rich and poor nations remained wide open during the first week of the climate change negotiations at Durban, all eyes are now on the final leg of the global talks starting Monday which will see heads of state and ministers putting their heads together to tailor a mutually acceptable deal.

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With hardly any progress made during the first week of the Nov 28-Dec 9 Conference of Parties (CoP 17) in this port city, the host South Africa is under lot of pressure to make the global meet a success.

The negotiations will catch up from Monday with many top negotiators and ministers leading their countries during the final round.

Indian Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan, US special envoy for climate change Todd Stern, Vice Chairman of China’s national development and reform commission Xie Zhenhua and several African heads of state of will participate in the talks.

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

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 Beijing’s stand.

Terming pressure from rich nations to take legally binding emission cuts as “rumours”, India Saturday reiterated that it is not ready to accept a new climate treaty but looked forward to the implementation of the principles of the existing climate regime.

“There should be no ambiguity about what our objective is. Our objective in these negotiations is not to launch a process for a new climate treaty, but rather enhance implementation of the principles and provisions of the existing and valid climate treaty, which is the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC),” said India’s top negotiator J.M. Mauskar.

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”.

UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres 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.

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.

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.

The issues of a $100 billion climate funding and technology transfer to adapt to the climate change are other contentious things that will be discussed hard during the second week.

(Richa Sharma can be contacted at [email protected])