Davos, Switzerland: UN climate talks will “probably not” agree an ambitious deal this year unless the economy improves and voters press for action, said India’s top climate official Shyam Saran.
“If the economic and financial crisis continues or even worsens during the coming year then the kind of ambitious response that the world expects is probably not going to happen,” said India’s special envoy on climate change, on the fringes of a business and policy summit in Davos. “But if the situation improves ... if there is much more public opinion pressure on governments domestically ... that remains to be seen.”
The financial crisis had contributed to deadlock at last month’s climate talks, by heightening concerns that climate laws would drive jobs overseas, for example to the developing world, if they faced less onerous targets, said Saran.
Saran hinted at compromise, however, on a major stumbling block in Copenhagen last month — but the United States first must agree to make its proposed targets to curb carbon emissions enforceable under international law.
The United States never ratified the existing Kyoto Protocol, whose present commitments expire in 2012, and time is running out for the world to agree and then ratify a successor pact. The United States has said it will not sign up to an extended Kyoto Protocol, preferring a new agreement.
India may consider a separate instrument, provided the United States agreed to make its targets binding, rather than just a binding review of these targets — a position that the United States preferred in Copenhagen according to Saran.
That is the legal format of Kyoto, which applies carbon-cutting targets to rich countries and includes legal sanctions if they fail to meet these. “If the U.S. only has a problem with the (Kyoto) label but not with the substance then that’s a different issue,” he said referring to India’s opposition.
“If, on the other hand, it’s not only a matter of the label but it is something much more fundamental ... is the US Congress in a position toaccept international enforcement? If you look at legislation currently before Congress they don’t have that, it is entirely domestic.”
“There is a lack of clarity on which way we’re going.” Saran rejected suggestions that developing countries such as India and China had obstructed last month’s UN climate talks, which failed in their core objective to agree national and global emissions targets.
Developing countries had not agreed that the final “Copenhagen Accord” should be legally binding because they feared that may have diluted the Kyoto Protocol, he said, by giving no assurance that proposed new emissionstargets would be enforceable.