Developed and developing nations still bickering in Durban

The UN climate summit went into extra time in Durban, South Africa, on Saturday, with no agreement in sight. Developed and developing countries continued to bicker over who should do what to limit emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) that are warming the globe. A senior Indian negotiator said India had serious problems with the latest draft of the summit decisions, that was circulated an hour before midnight. Negotiators from blocs representing 194 governments were meeting yet again in the morning in an effort to reach compromise.

The main points of contention have remained the same over the last few days. India wants assurance that any control over GHG emissions will not impact its development. It also wants rich nations to reduce their emissions more, under the current Kyoto Protocol meant for the purpose.

Rich nations, mainly in the European Union, want emerging economies to control their emissions, also under a legally bound treaty like the protocol. They want negotiations for the new treaty to start now and end by 2015, while India wants to start negotiations in 2015 when a review of the next Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report will be ready. India is reluctant to commit to controls under a legally binding regime, though China has said it is willing to consider that if its conditions are met.

Making India’s point at an informal meeting Friday evening, Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan said: “India is asking for space for basic development for its people and poverty eradication. Is this an unreasonable demand?”

Reacting to the criticism that India was trying to delay the global fight against climate change, Natarajan said: “We are not saying nothing should be done now, or no action should be taken. On the contrary. We are asking that the actions of the developed country parties must be reviewed… What we demand is for existing commitments to be met… My biggest concern with reference to the texts is that there is no reference to the fundamental principle of equity and CBDR (common but differentiated responsibilities) in the bigger picture text.”

As the negotiations continued, Ms Natarajan told The Third Pole around noon on Saturday that there was no change in India’s stand. "Why should there be?" she asked.

 The government’s position was supported by Sunita Narain, head of the Delhi-based think tank Centre for Science and Environment. She pointed out that there was little point in other countries softening their positions, because “there is little chance that the US will now bow to a deal which is legally binding”. She felt “the EU’s strategy is that once it breaks China and India into joining this agreement, it will force the US to accept the deal as well… But the fact is this means that instead of putting pressure on the US, all that Durban is ending up doing is to push India and China against the wall…

“Now, instead of working on an agreement that is effective and just, India and China must just bend over and sign…If this deal for a new agreement goes through, without the underlying condition of equity in past and future carbon budgets, then this city of Durban will become famous for starting a new era of climate apartheid.”

On their part, rich countries have pointed out that China is now the world’s largest GHG emitter, and India is in fourth position. So, even if the rich countries go by the Kyoto Protocol, it will account for only around 15 percent of global emissions.” They have also said that India’s proposal to start negotiations after 2015 will delay action to combat climate change.

The negotiations started on Saturday with the differences unresolved, though ministers and bureaucrats knew they had only a few hours left to reach compromise.