India Braces For Long Nights To Resolve These 4 Differences At Climate Change Talks

08/12/2015 5:19 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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PARIS, FRANCE - NOVEMBER 29: An artwork entitled 'One Heart One Tree' by artist Naziha Mestaoui is displayed on the Eiffel tower in the lead up to the Conference on Climate Change COP21 on November 29 in Paris, France. The climate change conference COP21 will gather 193 countries in Paris from November 30 to December 11, 2015. (Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)

PARIS -- As negotiators are rolling up their sleeves for the big push to reach a climate change deal by the end of week, the Indian delegation has stocked up on sleeping bags for long nights at the Le Bourget Centre.

With key issues still unresolved, they are trying hard to overcome their differences because leaving Paris without a pact would be catastrophic for the world, and a huge embarrassment for their governments back home.

So far, France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius is confident about concluding the conference on Friday, and not extending the annual U.N. Climate Change Conference by a day or two, which happens when the talks hit a road block on the final day of the two-week long meeting.

Negotiators from almost 200 countries are here to reach an agreement on how to stop global temperature rise at 2 degrees Celsius from preindustrial levels. So far, their nation action plans to reduce CO2 emissions will only achieve 2.7 degrees Celsius.

In the second week of the conference, key differences include just how much countries are willing to do to bring down their CO2 emissions, when and how will their current pledges be reviewed, how far have developed countries come in their commitment to deliver $100 billion dollars by 2020, will this amount be increased after 2020, and how will the national action plans be monitored.

Transparency

While the world is concerned about India's rising CO2 emissions and coal consumption, New Delhi has said that developed countries became rich and prosperous on the back of fossil fuels, and now it was time to leave the remaining carbon space for developing countries to grow.

CO2 emissions reduction targets which countries have set for themselves are not up for negotiations. But the implementation of these targets is up for international scrutiny.

Several developed countries want that all nations should be monitored by the same rules, but developing countries prefer a more exacting standard for their rich counterparts, especially since many poor countries just don't have the capacity or expertise to measure their greenhouse gas emissions.

Over the years, India has suggested International Consultations and Analysis (ICA) for developing nations, and a more rigorous International Analysis and Review (IAR) for developed countries.

READ: COP21 Climate Change Talks - No Summit For Vegetarians

Finance

Developed countries have still not delivered the $100 billion to combat climate change by 2020. They promised the money at the climate change talks in Copenhagen in 2009.

Developing countries also want them to confirm that $100 billion will be the minimum amount for post-2020 financing.

Developing countries want this amount to progressively increase from $100 billion, every year, but developed countries have shied away from explicitly committing to a figure.

Developed countries have proposed climate change financing from multiple sources - public and private, and through bilateral and multilateral channels.

Developing countries want the $100 billion per year to be distinct from bilateral aid, development money, and private investment. They want climate change finance to be new and additional from any existing flow of money.

Expanding Donor Base

A handful of non-European developed countries want to expand the donor base for climate finance to include developing countries which are in a "position to do so" (POTODOSO) or "willing to do so." The contributions would be entirely voluntary.

Suspicious that developed countries were trying to reduce their financial responsibilities, developing countries came out with all guns blazing against POTODOSO, last week.

Todd Stern, U.S. special envoy on climate change, clarified that this proposal does not alter the $100 billion obligation on developed countries, but it reflects contemporary economic realities in which China can pledge $3 billion to other developing countries for combating climate change.

After outrightly opposing POTODOSO. India now appears willing to talk about it as long the $100 billion is separate.

"It is simply that $100 billion by some countries as promised should come first. There should be no double accounting. That should be a clean exercise of $100 billion which will create new confidence in the world. Let that happen and then we can always see," Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar told journalists today.

READ: POTODOSO - This Acronym Shook The First Week Of The Climate Change Talks In Paris

Review

Countries are also divided on the time period in which the international community should do "global stocktaking" of how far their actions plans are working to meet the 2 degrees Celsius goal, and whether these need to be ramped up.

Developed countries want to review the situation once before this agreement is enforced post-2020, and they are keen on a five-year-review.

India, which prefers a 10-year-review period, has argued that five years is simply not enough to gauge the impact of a country's national action plan and expect them to revise it.

Differentiation

These differences reflect the overarching change from a black-and-white "differentiation" between developed and developing countries to a greyer canvas where principles of "common but differentiate responsibilities and equity" still remain, but major economies like China and India are roped into doing more.

"The real debate on differentiation is essentially between two different visions. The first is of stark bifurcation between two categories of countries...this division would stay fixed and immutable irrespective no matter how advanced or wealthy or large emitters countries became," said Stern. "The second vision is more nuanced and flexible."

But India believes that CO2 emissions from developed countries over the past 150 years has caused the climate change, and so historical responsibilities govern actions to combat climate crisis irrespective of the economic situation prevailing today.

Pushed down this road since the climate change talks at Copenhagen in 2009, and weighed down by pressure from the international community to tackle the global crisis, India has slowly conceded ground on the CBDR principle.

While India needs energy to combat poverty and generate electricity, which will require it to ramp up its fossil fuels over the next two decades, the country is also acutely vulnerable to risings sea levels, melting glaciers and extreme weather events.

For now, India is walking a tight rope to deal with both these challenges.

Around 40 billion tonnes of CO2 has been emitted into the atmosphere. The largest emitters are China at 28 percent, US at 14 percent, EU at 10 percent and India at 7 percent (with the highest growth rate of 5.1 percent), according to the 2014 Global Carbon Report.

India produces 1.9 tonnes of CO@ emissions per person (per capita), compared with 16.4 tonnes per person in the U.S., 7.2 tonnes in China and 6.8 tonnes in the EU.

READ: Quit Blaming India, Support Its Transition To Cleaner Development - U.N. Deputy Climate Change Chief Interview

'Don't Squander'

Any agreement delivered at the end of decades-long negotiations, while the world stands on the brink of disaster, would be regarded as historic. But there are serious concerns about how far it will be able to stop global temperatures from rising above 2 degrees Celsius.

At a press conference today, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon gave a mixed message on ambition.

While urging negotiators to "go much further and faster" instead of "half measures or delay," he also asked them to not pursue "perfection" since the agreement could be strengthened down the road.

"I ask for compromise and constructive engagement," Ban said. "A political momentum like this may not come again. I urge ministers and negotiators here not to squander it."

COP21 coverage on HuffPost India is supported by CANSA and PAIRVI.

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