Copenhagen: India and China came under a concerted attack from rich nations Monday for a three-hour suspension of the December 7-18 climate summit, though an Indian government delegate denied that the country had anything to do with it.
The fracas occurred at an "informal" session of the summit called by the host, Denmark's Environment Minister Connie Hedegaard, in an effort to get at least a meaningful "political declaration" from the 192 countries gathered in Copenhagen.
The group of African countries walked out of the session, with Kamel Djemouai, the Algerian representative at the talks, saying Hedegaard's attempts would mean "death of the Kyoto Protocol", the current international treaty to tackle climate change.
Algeria is the current chair of the Africa group.
Delegates from the US and some European countries promptly said India and China had "engineered" the walkout, and some of them said Indian and Chinese delegates had walked out too.
This was promptly reported by developed country media, leading to much confusion among the 3,000-plus journalists gathered here to cover the summit.
But a senior member of the Indian delegation denied that India had walked out or had "put up" the African countries to stage a walkout. After three hours of intense closed-door negotiations, the "informal" session restarted.
But all this drama once again pushed back any chance of any strong outcome at Copenhagen, with rich countries still refusing any significant cuts in their emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG)-- which are warming the planet--or to put any meaningful amount of money on the table to help poor countries cope with climate change effects.
The emission cuts promised by advanced economies will not keep the world within a two-degree rise of global temperature, a limit beyond which climate change effects will be "unpredictable and catastrophic", according to Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
On the financing front, the lowest estimate by the World Bank of the money poor countries need to cope with climate change effects is $75 billion a year. All that the rich countries have offered so far is $10 billion a year for the next three years.
Instead, delegates from rich countries continued to blame emerging economies like India and China for not agreeing to legally binding GHG emission reduction targets, a position that was roundly condemned by Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh as he hurried from one closed-door meeting to another.
"We cannot have a peaking year for our emissions," Ramesh said, referring to a proposal to this effect circulated by a senior official of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
"Nor can we agree to this demand that all countries cut down emissions or that our domestic actions to mitigate emissions be subject to international scrutiny."
Ramesh also tightened the deadline to reach agreement here, saying its draft must be finalised by Wednesday evening. Britain's Ed Milliband, secretary of state for energy and climate change, supported Ramesh. "We have to get our act together before the heads of state arrive," Milliband said.
The Chinese government appeared exasperated by rich nations' attempts to blame it for failure here.
Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei said: "It is the legal obligation of developed countries to fund developing countries to cope with the effects of climate change caused by the rich nations for over 150 years. Instead of doing that, they are trying to blame China."
"This is completely unfair, but China will continue to try its best to ensure an ambitious and just deal is reached in Copenhagen."
Rich countries have used the fact that since 2007 China is the world's largest GHG emitter, followed by the US, Russia and India. But developing countries point out that almost all the GHG - mainly carbon dioxide - warming up the atmosphere now has been put there by advanced economies.
Senior member of the US government delegation Jonathan Pershing repeated: "There will be no deal without emerging economies coming on board."
A spokesperson of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) denied that the informal session would give the Kyoto Protocol a go-by. According to him, its agenda included:
- Long-term emission reduction goal and its relationship to sustainable development.
- Aggregate and individual levels of emissions reductions by developed countries and how to ensure consistency in how targets are met.
- How to record planned mitigation actions by developing countries and how to consider the mitigation actions they have implemented.
- Ensuring predictable, long-term public financing for adaptation and mitigation, beyond short-term financial commitments - the scale of the mid- and long-term goal, the burden-sharing arrangements and how to make financial support "measurable, reportable and verifiable".
But there was no perceptible progress on any of these points, and UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer was among the few optimistic persons left in the Bella Centre by Monday afternoon.
"We are halfway up the mountain and the rest of the ride is going to be far smoother and more relaxing," de Boer said.
But, he admitted, "we need to see more progress on finance...and a big issue left now is that the US wants to see tangible and measurable actions by major developing economies (read India, China, Brazil and South Africa). The challenge is how to capture their actions in the Copenhagen outcome".