US Playing Spoilsport at International Climate Negotiations?
Just as it seemed that differences over contentious issues regarding the next climate treaty were ironing out and all parties moving ahead with a common agenda, the developed countries, US in particular, threatened to stall negotiations until developing countries pledge equal emission reduction measures.
According to new reports, American negotiators demanded that there should be similar mitigation obligations for developed as well developing countries. The demand was strictly against the unanimous decision to draw distinction between capacities of developed and developing nations to reduce carbon emissions taken at the Bali Climate Conference in 2007.
Developing countries, led by India, opposed the demand in one voice and forced the American negotiators to back down.
United States’ stance came as a surprise given that officials from the Obama administration have been in constant talks with various developing countries and that these talks have resulted in many developing countries agreeing to voluntary emission reduction plans. It was that since the carbon output of most developing countries is much less than that of developed countries and that they are not technically and financially equipped to take up bold mitigation measures a clear differentiation between mitigation measures taken up by the two parties.
Contrary to UNFCCC, World Bank Recommendations
The United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change has stated in its report that the developed countries need to play a major role in achieving the ideal goal of reducing global carbon emissions by 25 to 40 percent. The Chairman of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that it would be economically viable for the developing countries to reduce carbon emissions at a rate similar to that required by the developed countries.
The World Bank in a recent report justified India’s stance to refuse mandatory emission reductions as the economical costs could cripple India’s fight against poverty. The report stated that the Indian government is likely to aggressively push for rural electrification and it would be difficult to control the resulting increase in carbon emissions.
It is unreasonable to demand uniform emission reduction targets for all countries. The major share of world’s carbon emissions originate for the developed countries while the developing countries (except China) have smaller carbon footprints. In addition, it would be unfair to force the developing countries to agree to aggressive mitigation measures which could hamper their efforts to improve the standard of living of their people.
Voluntary Emission Reductions
Many developing countries including India, China, Indonesia and South Africa have revealed their intentions to have voluntary and sectoral emission reduction targets for the most polluting industries. The proposed laws would also include measures to improve energy efficiency and conservation of forests.
China has signed deals with the US which would result in increased engagement between the two countries on matters ranging from renewable energy to green buildings. Chinese President recently announced his government’s goal to significantly reduce the energy intensity. China also aims to generate 15 percent of energy from renewable sources by 2020.
India has announced that it is willing to formulate a domestic law aimed at controlling carbon emission output from five of its most polluting industrial sectors. The Indian environment minister announced that the bill would take into account the economics of the whole emission reduction plan and that every major initiative would have to undergo scrutiny of the Parliament. India has also, for the first time, agreed to provide an annual report to the UN about its mitigation measures.
The United States and other developing countries must realize that the developing countries are still quite a few years away from an accelerated transition to clean energy based economy. The developing countries have now agreed to voluntary emission cuts and have also agreed to improve the accountability in the system of reporting and carbon accounting. Thus the developed countries must appreciate the proactive initiatives announced by the developing countries. Significant progress has been made in the negotiations for the next climate treaty and it is very important that new issues are discussed on the foundations of agreements made in the past.
Image: jcolman (Creative Commons)
The views presented in the above article are author’s personal views and do not represent those of TERI/TERI University where the author is currently pursuing a Master’s degree.