London/Washington: United Nations (UN) secretary general Ban Ki-Moon said a global warming treaty may be beyond our reach this week as India and China rejected pressure for developing nations to adopt mandatory pollution targets. “We must be realistic about the opportunity of a breakthrough in Durban,” Ban said at UN climate talks in the South African port city on Tuesday. “There are great economic troubles.”
India, speaking with the BASIC negotiating group of countries that also includes South Africa, Brazil and China, said industrial nations should move first in cutting fossil fuel emissions. The comments marked a hardening of positions that reduces the scope for an agreement in time for the meeting’s conclusion on Friday.
Ongoing impasse: UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon. Photo: Schalk van Zuydam/AP
“BASIC countries are not major polluters,” Indian environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan said on Tuesday in Durban, where the talks are being held. “They are emerging market economies. They have a small footprint in the context of historical emissions.”
After nine days of meetings, envoys from more than 190 nations remain divided about how to extend limits on greenhouse gas emissions once the Kyoto Protocol expires next year. The 1997 treaty capped emissions for industrial nations. It included no targets for developing nations including China and India, which since then have become two of the three biggest polluters.
A new negotiating text was published on Wednesday that covers all nations. It runs to 138 pages and includes numerous alternative options for emission-cutting measures. The South African presidency of the conference is also consulting on a shorter text detailing four options for an outcome of the talks.
China, India and Brazil are pushing industrial nations to extend Kyoto, saying any climate pact must recognize the historical responsibility of the nations that caused the problem to act first. The US, Canada, Japan and Russia say they want a treaty that requires cuts from all parties. The European Union (EU) says it will extend Kyoto if all nations agree to adopt a legally binding treaty by 2015.
“The US is setting an unreasonably high bar for reaching a comprehensive agreement,” said Tim Gore, a climate policy adviser at Oxfam. “They are talking about legal parity with developing countries. They are talking about it because they know it can’t be delivered.”
As ministers and heads of state joined to work on conclusions for the talks, the developing countries stepped up resistance to taking on limits for fossil fuel emissions. The biggest stumbling block was the question whether developing nations would be treated the same as industrial ones or whether they would remain outside a system of cuts.
“The time has come to address the thorny political issues before us,” said Christiana Figueres, the UN diplomat leading the meeting.
“Brazil has ‘no problem’ with devising a timeline to a deal, so long as it doesn’t prejudge whether that eventual arrangement sets legally binding targets for all nations,” said Luiz Alberto Figueiredo, the nation’s ambassador to the talks.
“I cannot simply say now that we will agree with that if we don’t know now what will be the conditions,” Figueiredo said. “We have no problem in looking at a timeline that will take us from here to there. The structure of that post-2020 framework will be solved in the negotiations.”
Developing countries also expressed concern that promises made at previous meetings in Copenhagen and Cancun, Mexico, haven’t been kept.
Andres R. Martinez, Ewa Krukowska and Alex Morales in Durban contributed to this story.