No big surprises likely at Cancun meet

No big surprises likely at Cancun meet

New Delhi: Ministers from across the world will gather in the Mexcian city of Cancun on Monday in an effort to find common ground on the contentious issue of climate change.

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After the hype and hoopla that preceded last year’s United Nations climate change meeting in Copenhagen, the run-up to the Cancun meeting that continues until 10 December has been subdued.

The US, accounting for 20% of world emissions, has refused to join the 1997 Kyoto Protocol—a binding UN pact to curb emissions—without developing nations making similar commitments. The impasse prevented nations from reaching a binding deal in Copenhagen.

While there are no expectations of a final treaty on climate change in Cancun, there is hope that it will pave the way for an agreement, possibly by the end of 2011.

“There is no prospect of an agreement. What everyone is looking for is a balanced outcome and not progress on any singular, particular issue," said Jairam Ramesh, minister of state for environment and forests. “But at the end of the Cancun meeting, we must have some decisions or commitments on the second phase of the Kyoto Protocol. In terms of expectations from the US, it is like flogging a dead horse."

As of now, the US has promised to reduce its emissions by 17% from 2005 levels by 2020. As the world’s second largest emitter of global warming gases, the US needs to be part of any climate deal that aspires to limit increase in average global temperature to 2 degrees Celsius.

Ramesh added that there has to be give and take between the developed and developing nations and countries cannot remain prisoners of old stated positions. The Kyoto Protocol’s second commitment period begins from 2012 and developed countries, which have mandatory emission reduction targets, are yet to commit to how much they will reduce.

While developing countries and the BASIC group comprising Brazil, China, India and South Africa are gunning for their richer counterparts to put a number on their commitments, developed countries want some resolution on the issue of international consultation and analysis (ICA) on domestic emission reduction targets for all countries.

“What we can best hope for is a set of decisions and MRV (measurement, reporting and verification of emission targets) and ICA are a concern for developed countries. And India does have a leadership role in the discussion of ICA and technology transfer and distribution," said Ramesh.

Ramesh recently submitted a proposal on the issue to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). India’s proposal says that each country that has emissions exceeding 1% of world’s total greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) should come under an ICA regime and be scrutinized once in two-three years. India would fall under this bracket.

The issue of verification and scrutiny has come under criticism in the past and had remained a roadblock between rich and poor nations. India and China have held in the past that such a mechanism would run the risk of stepping on countries’ sovereignty, especially when it comes to emission reductions that have not been subsidized by finances from developed countries.

Ramesh is hopeful that the new proposal has potential to break the logjam on this aspect.

“The response has been positive till now though China is a little cautious," he said.

On the technology aspect as well, India played a constructive role in Copenhagen and earlier by proposing the idea of innovation centres across the world, which would enlist clean technologies and assist in their adaptation according to local needs.

The other sticky issue, which was given a start at last year’s meeting, remains climate finance.

At Copenhagen, pledges from developed nations added up to $30 billion to support the mitigation and adaptation needs of poorer nations. Out of the $30 billion, approximately $3 billion (Rs1.37 trillion) is slated to go into adaptation projects, which have been criticized by non-governmental organizations as inadequate.

“In last December’s climate summit in Copenhagen, the developed countries committed to provide developing nations with $30 billion between 2010 and 2012, with the money balanced between funding for mitigation and adaptation projects," says Achala Chandani, researcher with the International Institute for Environment and Development. “But our research shows that the developed countries have failed to meet their responsibility to help poorer nations."

Trust between industrialized and developing nations has been hard to come by on climate change, whether on the issue of finance or technology or equity in emission reduction targets. And though it is unlikely that nations will make much progress in Cancun, the hope is that the world will take a few baby steps towards an agreement.