China would have been left completely isolated at last December's climate summit in Copenhagen, if it had not been for India's backing, Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh has said.
Recognition from China's “top leadership” that Indian support was “absolutely essential” for China at the talks, following an “ambush” by the West, had now even led to an improvement in bilateral relations after a year of hostilities, Mr. Ramesh told journalists on Sunday.
“We were critical to China at Copenhagen. The Chinese know, in their heart of hearts, that we saved them from isolation,” he said. “It is not an exaggeration to say that the top Chinese leadership acknowledges the Copenhagen spirit, and the cooperation between India and China, as a very positive outcome.”
China, as the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, came under pressure from the West at the talks to do more to tackle the growth of its emissions. China accounts for 23 per cent of global emission. India accounts for less than 5 per cent. China and India closely co-ordinated their negotiating positions at the talks, as part of the four-member BASIC group of developing countries, along with Brazil and South Africa.
Shedding new light on the compromise Copenhagen accord that was reached after frantic, last-minute negotiations, Mr. Ramesh said the agreement was essentially a deal struck by the BASIC group — mainly, China and India — with U.S. President Barack Obama, largely by-passing the EU.
“Had that agreement with President Obama not been signed, Mr. Obama would have got back to America and painted China as the villain of the piece,” he said.
Mr. Ramesh also hit out at criticism from the EU that China and India “had wrecked” the possibilities of a climate deal. Last week, Der Spiegel, a German magazine, published secret transcripts of a meeting between heads of state at Copenhagen, suggesting they revealed complicity between China and India to block a substantive deal.
The magazine accused India of a last-minute U-turn in its negotiating position to oppose any offer of concrete emission cuts by western countries, as well as a proposal to reduce global emissions by 50 per cent by 2050. The article suggested that India's alleged change in stance was prompted by China.
Mr. Ramesh said the article “was not accurate.” “India and China argued that if you were to impose this constraint [of capping global emissions] without working out a formula to ensure equity in burden-sharing, the development space for countries like India and China would get circumscribed,” he said. “That is why we argued for setting a global goal of limiting temperature increase [instead].”
The chances of a deal being struck this year, at the climate summit in Cancun, Mexico, were “very, very low” because of the persisting differences between the west and the developing countries. “We may have a political statement in Cancun,” he said. “We may have a little more detailing of the Copenhagen accord. But are we going to get an international agreement? The answer is clearly no.”