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G20 meeting on climate finance to help India clear stance

Issues stay unresolved as financing climate change action remains key to Paris Agreement

Nitin Sethi  |  New Delhi 

Diplomats from the G20 group of countries will be meeting in Ankara, Turkey, on July 27-28 to discuss climate change finance - a topic that holds key to a successful round of negotiations at Paris in December, which is meant to stitch together a new global agreement under the United Nations (UN) Climate Convention.

For India, the talks will work as another opportunity to sharpen its positions ahead of the formal UN negotiations. Since the National Democratic Alliance government took over, the red lines or non-negotiable issues for negotiations have not been revised, giving the negotiating diplomats continuity in dealing with an issue that has helped unite the developing and smaller countries in the otherwise fractious G77 countries.

Conclusions of the G20 meeting are not binding on the formal UN negotiations, but any policy pronouncement at the forum puts pressure on all countries in the group to adhere to the line at the formal talks as well.

Several such plurilateral talks between different countries are expected to shape some consensus ahead of the Paris negotiations. Enviro-nment minister Prakash Javadekar recently attended the Major Economies Forum (MEF) meeting at Luxemburg, which is anchored by the US. He is also participating in an informal meeting of about 40 ministers hosted by France. At the MEF meeting, Javadekar had warned other countries of the last moment attempts to do away with the annexes that maintain differentiation between developed and developing countries under the UN climate convention.

"The attempt to breach differentiation is being made through different routes. In the climate finance elements of the proposed Paris agreement, two Trojan horses have been introduced. One is to suggest that developing countries should also contribute to the climate change funds and another is the call for 'innovative finance'," explained one of the Indian negotiators not willing to be named.

"We agreed earlier that all countries in a position to do so would also contribute to climate funds but only developed countries are under the legal obligation to provide funds. There is an attempt to alter that," he added. "In the name of innovative finance, too, some developed countries want to tax emissions from bunker fuels to finance climate action without applying differentiation."

Bunker fuel refers to emissions from shipping and the aviation sector. A protracted argument has been on how to apply the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities to tax emissions from the two sectors.

He pointed out that a third attempt to block larger developing countries such as India out of the climate finance kitty by suggesting that only 'vulnerable countries' should get it. " 'Vulnerable countries' is a term used to suggest that only small countries face risks from climate change. But we know that India's vast population along the coast line is vulnerable to climate change, too. Some countries want to narrow the scope of who can access climate finances by using such new terminology in the Paris agreement," he said. "India asks the developed countries to meet their financial obligations not just for itself but for all the developing countries in the G77 block. It's our common position."

Attempts beyond the formal UN talks to squeeze global funding for greenfield coal projects is another issue that has got Indian finance and climate diplomats agitated. "We are going to depend on clean coal for coming years even with our ambitious renewable energy targets. Global finance should be available for us to charter this cleaner path," a second diplomat who has negotiated for India for several years told Business Standard . "Along with other like-minded countries, we have proposed that developed countries should de-carbonise their economies by 2050 and provide carbon space for sustainable development to others giving them longer time-frames to peak emissions."

"If we want to gre en our economy at an enhanced pace and yet meet the ambitious development agenda set by the government, such as providing 24x7 power, we shall require all possible resources to be deployed. In our own interest we shall pitch our best, but if more is required of us, we should have access to new financial resources as provided under the convention. The latest Socio Economic Census data have starkly shown the challenge India faces," he added.

"While the finance ministry leads on talks at the G20 and issues of climate finance, our positions are drawn from common understanding of how negotiations are progressing on all the fronts - mitigation, adaptation, capacity building and climate finance. It is a package deal. Negotiations happen cutting across these fronts and not in silos."

He pointed out that in the climate talks over the past two years, the lack of finance from developed countries has become a rallying point for more than 100 developing countries under the G77+China group umbrella. "Negotiations are held in groups not just as individual countries. We are part of the G77 as well as the BASIC group and the Like Minded Developing Countries. The G77+China group has largely shown a unified position on finance, because of which developed countries realise they have to show some concrete deliverables on finance beyond their weak mitigation (emission reduction) targets," said the second negotiator cited above.

"Forums like G20 and others are important to keep a careful eye on. We have to be cautious that we do not be give up our positions even before we reach the formal negotiating table at Paris. Our domestic voluntary decisions are ours to make but it is important at this stage that plurilateral statements and agreements do not reduce our negotiating space in the global agreement," said the first diplomat Business Standard spoke to.

  • Will public finance be the main source of climate funds or not
  • A predictable timeline of how rich countries will provide US $ 100 billion annually by 2020
  • Will differentiation between developed and developing countries be retained in sourcing the funds
  • Green Climate Fund focussing excessively on loans rather than grants at the moment
  • India's proposal to use the Fund money to finance dissemination of clean technology in poorer countries
  • Will funding breach differentiation taking a sector-based route such as taxing aviation and shipping

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First Published: Mon, July 20 2015. 22:46 IST