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Paris Climate Change Agreement: First draft ignores India's demands

Elements to operationalise Prime Minister Modi's call for climate justice missing

Nitin Sethi  |  New Delhi 

UN climate talks in Bonn from Aug 31-Sept 4

The draft of the Paris climate change agreement has left the Indian government and its negotiators upset: It ignores many submissions by developing countries, breaches India's non-negotiable red lines and is inimical to the country's interests at the talks, the negotiators have concluded in their preliminary assessment.

The wall of differentiated responsibilities between developed and developing countries under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has been broken in the draft agreement. The draft focuses deeply on mitigation or reducing emissions and is shallow on issues of finance, adaptation, technology-sharing, capacity-building and loss and damage.

Developed countries have been let off easy on their existing financial obligations, without a road map to deliver on their existing obligations or enhancing future commitments. Instead, developing countries such as India have been asked to also contribute to the global climate finance pool.

The principle of historical emissions and equity has been jettisoned out of the draft agreement to bring developed and developing countries on a par. The draft dilutes the existing obligations of developed countries to transfer clean technologies. It doesn't even acknowledge that the Paris agreement would operate under the principles and provisions of the UNFCCC.

These, among others, are the concerns that plague the draft, the Indian team has said.

Officially, the draft is called the "Co-Chairs' non-paper, containing the basis for negotiation of the draft Paris climate package". Though Business Standard spoke to several Indian negotiators and observers for this article, most didn't wish to go on record.

"The draft is unacceptable. It is an attempt to rewrite the convention (UNFCCC) through the backdoor and does not respect the existing principles and provisions of the very convention under which the Paris agreement is to be housed. It does not reflect most of our or other developing countries' concerns. It breaches our red-lines (non-negotiable issues) and favours some developed countries," said a senior Indian negotiator.

In an interview to The Times of India last week, Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar had used milder words to criticise the draft, saying he was "disappointed". Union Environment Secretary Ashok Lavasa had expressed "reservations" about the text at a recent meeting. A deeper assessment of the 20-page document through the past few days has only added to the disquiet among the Indian negotiating team.

"Agreeing to this (draft) as it is will lead to the death of the convention (UNFCCC), the end of historical responsibility and equity as we know it. It would allow for the 'greatest escape' by developed countries of the obligations under the convention and for an upgrade of developing countries' obligations," said Meena Raman of Third World Network, an observer group at the climate talks, which provides detailed records, as well as analysis, of the negotiations.

At the end of the last round of formal UN negotiations in Bonn, Germany, the two co-chairs of the talks, one from the US and the other from Algeria, were tasked with preparing a draft, based on what the countries had agreed to or not so far. The parts not agreed to are kept within brackets for further negotiations; the brackets are removed once compromise language is agreed upon by consensus among all countries.

But Indian negotiators say many contentious propositions, which breach Indian red lines and run counter to the country's formal submissions as part of either the LMDC group or the G77+China group, are reflected without brackets, suggesting consensus where it didn't exist between countries. At the same time, many formal and key proposals from developing countries are missing.

"The intended nationally determined contributions countries were expected to inform not just of their actions to reduce emissions, but also how they would shore up or provide finance, the need for adaptation, technology and capacity-building. The draft just picks up the mitigation bit and converts it into nationally determined mitigation actions, without differentiation between developing and developed countries," said a negotiator.

Instead, the draft proposes differentiation within developing countries, giving some countries greater access to resources than others.

While there is a weak reference in the preamble of the draft agreement to the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, the principle isn't made applicable in the operational parts of the text. The principle of equity and historical emissions, central to operationalise Prime Minister Narendra Modi's call for climate justice, isn't even mentioned in the draft agreement.

Developing countries, in a rare sign of unanimity within the larger G77+China group, have consistently sought a clear road map from developed countries that they would deliver on their existing obligation of $100 billion annually by 2020 and work to increase this fund. But this finds no mention in the draft agreement.

"The provisions of the convention require that the actions of developing countries are enabled by means of implementation (finance, technology and capacity building) by the developed world. That linkage has been weakened in the draft agreement to a point of non-existence," said another negotiator.

"If there is one group that would be happy with this draft, it's the Umbrella group," added another observer, on condition of anonymity. The Umbrella group is led by the US and includes non-European Union (EU) countries such as Australia, Canada, Japan, Norway and Russia. The other influential block of countries, the EU, has also criticised the draft. EU's commissioner for climate change and energy, Miguel Arias Canete, tweeted, "This #COP21 (Paris agreement) text cannot be it. We must improve it. Positive note: shorter, readable. Negative note: unbalanced, lacks ambition & specificity, and many open political issues."

The US hasn't formally reacted to the draft agreement text yet.

Countries are to gather at Bonn during October 19-23 to negotiate further on this draft before the final Paris round of talks begin on November 30 for two weeks. Even the bits in the text pointed to by the co-chairs as having consensus of all governments are open to debate and India, along with other countries, is expected to demand changes. But observers also say in an atmosphere of give-and-take, it is tougher to get too many corrections and fixes done by a country or group unless a country or group is clear about not letting the agreement breach its red lines, or it finds many other groups and countries coming out in support.

To coordinate with the G77+China group, as well as the Like Minded Developing Countries, on the draft text for Paris agreement, Indian negotiators would reach Bonn three days ahead of the scheduled negotiations. "We shall talk to other partner countries of our concerns. The five days (of negotiations) could be difficult, unless demands of the 137 developing countries in the G77+China group are addressed," said an Indian official, adding the the group was the largest block among the 196 countries party to the UNFCCC.

SHORTCOMINGS IN THE DRAFT PACT

  • LEVEL-PLAYING FIELD: Principle of common but differentiated responsibilities not operationalised. Even mention of equity and historical responsibility is missing. Levels the ground between developing and developed countries
     
  • FORK IN THE ROAD: No road map for delivery and enhancement of financial commitments of rich countries
     
  • SHOW US THE MONEY: Asks developing countries to also provide finance
     
  • STILL BUFFERING: Existing technology transfer obligations become weaker
     
  • DEEP END OF SHALLOW: Agreement is deeply focused on mitigation and shallow on adaptation, capacity building, finance and technology
     
  • THAT'S RICH! Delinks enabling financial and other support from rich countries for actions of developing countries

First Published: Wed, October 14 2015. 00:20 IST