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India's gain at Lima: A more united front of developing nations

Also, a reminder of the binding force and negotiating power of LMDC grouping, with China very much there, too

Nitin Sethi  |  New Delhi 

Peru Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar Vidal speaking at the Lima climate talks (Pic taken from Twitter)

India’s biggest gain at the Lima climate change conference was renewed solidarity among the 134-country developing economies group, still termed G77, and China. And, successful strategising by the Like Minded Developing Countries (LMDC) grouping, of which it is a member, as is China.

India had gone there after firmly anchoring itself in the latter grouping. On reaching Lima, the group suffered a somewhat expected setback when Philippines, reportedly under pressure from developed countries, moved out.

G77 operates at the climate talks more like an umbrella for the developing countries, with most nations taking varying positions, contradicting each other under smaller groupings. India, too, operates not only within G77 but also as partner in BASIC (Brazil, South Africa, China and India) and LMDC.

By the end of the meet, the loss of Philippines in the LMDC was more than made up when several other groups aligned with LMDC on the last designated day. That unity had not been seen in recent years between developing countries at the climate conference. Country groups such as the Least Developed Countries, the Alliance of Small Island States and the Africa Group all came together towards the end, demanding more parity in the agreement that was to be signed. The united front ensured the draft was rewritten and many of the issues raised by the developing countries were brought back to the table.

“Negotiations for the new climate agreement were to be held next year. Some developed countries tried to get that to happen this year. We blocked it in a manner that sent a strong signal: You cannot ride roughshod over the most fundamental interests of the developing countries,” said an Indian negotiator, speaking minutes before the Lima conclusion.

What helped the developing countries come together was also the developed countries' blocking of all negotiations to require them to either enhance or lay bare their financial commitments to address climate change. “Some developing countries might have felt that sitting in coalition with rich nations like the European Union would help them secure financial resources at least. At Lima, it became clearer to these that the developed countries are not willing to provide any finance or act ambitiously,” said an observer group leader at the talks, not willing to be quoted on record.

“It’s good that this battle has happened a year ahead and we have been able to show what a more united developing country block can achieve. It will help maintain a balance during the tough rounds of negotiations next year,” the Indian delegate said.

The LMDC group with China in it, too, became the sheet-anchor for the interests of developing countries. The meeting also helped dispel concerns in the Indian camp that China would move closer to the developed world at the UN talks, after its joint announcement in November with the US on emission reduction targets. This was realised by other developing countries as well.

“To me, it seemed like China has come back with renewed vigour, after dispelling the notion that it is reluctant to fight climate change. Had China not stood as strong, the story of Lima would have been very different,” acknowledged an African country delegate to Business Standard at the end of the meeting.

That the LMDC group was conscious of its role as a powerful centripetal force for developing countries became evident at the time of closing speeches. Speaking through Malaysia, the group minced no words in talking of an uneven balance in the global world order and at the climate talks. More, it pleaded with other developing countries, showcasing the results of Lima, to come back ‘home’ -– suggesting G77 fight a more collective battle next year for the agreement at Paris. India’s and China’s ministers might have taken a politer route to end the talks but the role of the two countries in working as power-horses of LMDC was not lost on the gathering.

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First Published: Mon, December 15 2014. 00:46 IST