A full-blown argument between the developed and developing countries over the application of principle of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR) in the Paris Agreement rocked the summit as it drew closer to the end of the first week of negotiations.
CBDR establishes that every country is responsible for addressing climate change yet not equally responsible. It seeks to balance the need for all countries to take responsibility for climate change and the need to recognise the differences in levels of economic development between countries. This principle is enshrined in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and distinguishes between obligations of the rich countries, based on their historical responsibility in causing climate change, and the developing world.
All countries had previously agreed that the Paris Agreement would be stitched under the UN Convention, which implied following its provisions and principles. But ever since the negotiations began in Paris, developed countries have steadfastly lobbied to do away with the differentiation.
Speaking for the Like-Minded Developing Countries, including India and China, Gurdial Singh Nijar of Malaysia said, “You (the developed countries) grew to this level of prosperity because you burnt fossil fuel at an unabated rate… You created the problem and now you say that we want you to share—on an equal basis—the responsibility.”
“You signed on the Convention (UNFCCC). It was in 1992. You acknowledged historical responsibility. You acknowledged differentiation. You acknowledged a way out of the situation, but now you are resiling from your obligations. You assumed legally binding obligations, which you have not fulfilled,” he added.
The previous four days had seen the developed countries blocking every proposal on implementing the differentiation principle in various elements of the proposed agreement. These elements of the agreement are about reducing emissions, adapting to inevitable climate change and providing means of implementation – technology, finance and capacity building.
“You are trying to freeze the development pace of developing countries. This is the message we want to give you. We don’t want to persuade you. You won’t be persuaded. You talk of countries like India and China. They are big countries. Even if they add a little, it will increase a lot. Do people stop industrialization that meets the needs of the country? Do people stop eating?” Nijar said.
His statement came on a day when India found support from an unexpected quarter – the Least Developed Countries (LDCs). Some have often contended that India’s demand for equity comes at the cost of threat to the LDCs. This includes India’s ex-environment minister Jairam Ramesh.
But in Paris, Pa Ousman, environment minister of Gambia, a prominent representative of the LDC group defended India’s right to development while doing more on renewable energy. He said, “India is a developing country with millions of poor people. Economic situation in some parts of India is the same as LDCs. We need to understand where India is coming from and must appreciate the efforts of the (Indian) government.”
“India is in a different situation compared to China and others from our perspective. It’s fair for India to protect the hundreds of millions of the poor,” he added.
Ousman’s statement deflates claims of those who had predicted that India would be isolated at the Paris talks for demanding that the Paris Agreement should follow the UN convention. In 2011, when negotiations for the new pact began, all countries had agreed to follow the UN convention.
The positive note from LDCs came after the Africa group, G77+China supported the call that differentiation must be one of the guiding principles of all provisions in the new pact.