The opening day of the U.N. climate change conference on Monday laid great emphasis on achieving a package of decisions at the end of the 10-day deliberations. “Cancun can,” quipped Danish Minister for Climate Change Lykke Friis. A sticky point could be the International Consultation and Analysis (ICA), in which India hopes to play a deal-maker, according to official sources.

With 25 heads of state confirming their participation in the conference, things hope to hot up next week. The developed countries, including the United States, are pushing for transparency from countries where they will fund climate change mitigation. The feeling is that without any movement on the ICA, the U.S. will not come on board; and unless there is some commitment on technology transfer, the developing countries will not agree to any monitoring.

Vision of new India

High-level sources said, the idea was to position India as a deal-maker, as a bridge between the developing and developed countries. This is in keeping with the Prime Minister's vision of a new India on world forums, an India willing to engage proactively and willing to offer pragmatic solutions.

At the plenary session, India made it clear that the Kyoto Protocol was always intended to continue, and if a developed country fell short of compliance in the first phase, that country would make good the deficiency in the second period of commitment, according to Environment Secretary Vijay Sharma, who is in Cancun for the deliberations.

The U.S. and other countries believe that the ICA or measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) is not as contentious or complicated as it is being made out to be once it is agreed that it will not be intrusive, it will respect national sovereignty, and it will not undermine the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Bali Action Plan.

Tangible commitment

Official sources said that without a firm commitment to have a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol and improved mitigation pledges from the U.S., the ICA framework might not take off. There has to be at the very minimum a firm and tangible commitment to fast-start finance with focus on actual disbursement of new and additional resources and the establishment of a technology mechanism with a network of climate innovation centres.

U.S. Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Change Jonathan Pershing told the press that the U.S. still reckoned that legislation was the right approach, and the ICA was supported by India, China and South Africa, and there was a broad consensus. The ICA would make the mitigation measures and emissions public and transparent. A commitment to report on the emissions in any case was being done, and already there was an obligation to report them. Since the first step was already in existence, he said, they needed to be updated regularly.

The U.S. was also committed to the fast-start funding, and it had already committed $1.7 billion. This funding, he pointed out, was one example of how the U.S. was keeping its end of the bargain.

However, China has not been too keen on the ICA. It is proposed that the ICA proceed ideally on the understanding that it is a facilitative process for transparency and accountability, and that it will not have any punitive implication, official sources said. The ICA could be held every two or three years for countries with a share of world greenhouse gas emissions in excess of 1 per cent (or any other appropriate indicator). All other countries will have the ICA process every four or five years.