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Negotiators struggle to finalise Cancun text

Negotiators struggle to finalise Cancun text

Jairam Ramesh had suggested countries to take binding commitments under appropriate legal form to check emissions.

Cancun: Negotiators from nearly 200 countries are struggling to finalise the outcome of the two-week Climate Change conference that has been enlivened by India's call for emission cuts by countries under an "appropriate legal form".

Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh had said on Thursday that all countries must take binding commitments under appropriate legal form to check emissions, which is seen as a departure from India's long-held position that it will not accept any legally-binding cuts.

The Indian minister's statement is considered as an attempt to break the stalemate in the conference, which has been marked by differences on various issues.

The BASIC group comprising India, China, South Africa and Brazil, appears to have been divided on the issue with Beijing steadfastly opposed to internationally-binding cuts. But, Ramesh maintains that India still stood by its stand that there can be no internationally-binding cuts "at this stage".

He has rejected charges that India has made a u-turn, adding that he had only "nuanced" the position because he does not want the country to be isolated.

Delegates from various countries said after Ramesh's speech that now there could be some hope of a breakthrough in the conference.

Different areas of concern have arisen with the preliminary text that needs to firmed-up by Saturday when the conference comes to an end.

Till now, the texts have not matured sufficiently for presenting final outcomes. So, there is a desperate effort to speed up the process, which meant late-night huddles for negotiators.

The text is riddled with contentious issues including reporting of mitigation actions by developing countries and developing countries through MRV/ICA programme, setting temperature goals, the peaking of carbon emissions and long-term goals.

The current text, for instance, says that countries must reduce their carbon emissions by 50 per cent from 1990 levels by 2050.

However, small island states, which are the most vulnerable to climate change, want more than 50 per cent and these nations argue that less ambitious targets may be too little too late for them.

The small island states along with African nations also want the world to work toward limiting the rise of global temperatures to 1.5 degrees, which is lower than the 2 degrees that is currently agreed on by a majority of countries.

On the peaking issue, India would like to reflect that the global peaking of carbon emissions leaves enough space for developing countries to grow economically.

The current squabble is about the date of peaking and what kind of differentiation should be made for developed and developing countries.

On the issue of finance, a key question remains how the green fund of USD 100 billion will be administered.

On the technology side, the IPR issue remains the most divisive.

Developing countries say that the industrialized countries should make available the technologies through public channel but the developed countries like US argue that these technologies are privately held under patents.

But India asserts that the IPR regime should not constrain the availability of technology due to the potentially devastating consequences of climate change.

One significant handicap appeared to be the absence of a big picture, which was reflected in negotiators working on separate issues in separate rooms without one common thread tying up all the different discussions.

Actual negotiation on the text between the negotiators themselves has been sparse since much of the work was done by two facilitators who were appointed by the conference president to lead groups on different issues.

The lack of big picture was compounded by the speculation surrounding the continuance of the Kyoto Protocol because of the Japanese refusal to accept the second commitment period after 2012.

Despite these differences, there has been significant progress in few areas including the REDD+ program to prevent deforestation, adaptation and technology transfer.

On the positive side, negotiators have acknowledged that there has been more transparency during the conference in Mexico that in the previous talks in Copenhagen.

In Copenhagen, last year, negotiators were taken aback when the Danish presidency of the conference sprung a secret text on the delegates. This time around, however, there was confidence that no such hidden documents were lurking in the background.

first published:December 10, 2010, 18:48 IST