Copenhagen: The world’s poorest nations on Tuesday stood together and refused to accept a warming of the earth beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2050, throwing global climate talks into further disarray.
On a day when the United Nations (UN) released seven drafts on technology finance, forests and adaptation for ministers to decide over the next two days, Lumumba Di-Aping, spokesperson of the Group of 77 plus China, contested the stand of minister of state for environment Jairam Ramesh that a rise in global temperature by 2 degrees Celsius by 2050 without any limitations on carbon dioxide concentration on parts per million (ppm) was “acceptable”.
“Africa will burn like a furnace if 2 degrees is allowed,” Aping said at a ministerial consultation. Ramesh later said that the “hard work” of bringing the developing world together was coming apart.
The Association of Small Island Nations also opposes India on its stand. The island nations, predicted to be the first to go under if global warming accelerates, are winning popular support in Copenhagen.
The stand of the poorer countries comes a day after they accused countries such as India and Brazil of deciding negotiations on their behalf. With three days left, the latest split make hopes of even a common political statement difficult, let alone a treaty. The seven drafts will be discussed at ministerial consultations that started on Wednesday afternoon and will continue into Thursday night.
“We expect good progress on these issues,” said Danish environment minister Connie Hedegaard, who chairs all negotiations. She acknowledged that agreement is only expected on technology and adaptation drafts, which consider smaller technical issues linked to lessening climate change effects in different sectors.
India’s proposal of holding the global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius would mean carbon emissions can go to 550 ppm from the current 430 ppm. Agreeing to 1.5 degrees would mean restricting emissions to 450 ppm. That means even developing nations such as India and China must cut emissions.
“Such a situation is not acceptable to us,” Chinese chief negotiator Quinta Yu told the Hindustan Times. “We have a right to increase our emissions for sustainable growth”.
Ramesh agreed with China, and for the first time sought a 40% emission cut from rich countries from their 1990 levels. The offer of the rich: 4-25% reduction by 2020, which India and China refuse to accept.
On 14 December, 53 African nations had stalled negotiations, accusing the Danish government (organizer of the summit) of holding talks with only 48 ministers ahead of a heads-of-state meeting on 17-18 December. “Forty-eight countries cannot represent our aspirations,” said Algerian diplomat and Africa representative Kamel Djemonai.
It is a view increasingly being voiced by many countries, with Bolivia’s chief climate negotiator Angelica Navarro saying that smaller nations are told at the last minute of even sudden room changes, so they must sit at the back.
“It seems to be more than a coincidence,” said Navarro, who accused more powerful countries of using what she called “WTO (World Trade Organization) tactics” of an “exclusive and untransparent” process.
“This is what is happening here right now,” said Navarro, who also represents her landlocked country, South America’s poorest, at the WTO talks. “We want to be part of the decision-making process...not a solution crafted by a handful even if they are more powerful.”
That view was echoed by diplomats from the Philippines, Indonesia and Sri Lanka. “We (Sri Lanka) chair Saarc (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) nations, but here we are not being heard,” said Palitha T.B Kohona, Sri Lanka’s permanent representative to the UN.
Hedegaard could not be reached for comment, but her office said smaller discussions were only meant to speed up the negotiating process and no slight was intended. “Everyone is here for transparency and legitimacy of process,” said US chief climate envoy Todd Stern. “But we have to appreciate the balancing act of the Danish government in these difficult days”.