BASIC optimistic about legally binding Paris deal

Group makes it clear that while they were fully cooperating with France to arrive at an agreement, they would like to see specific and clear provisions on financial support.

December 09, 2015 12:10 am | Updated November 17, 2021 01:01 am IST - Paris

Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar and his South Africa counterpart Edna Bomo Molewa attend a news conference during the U.N. Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris on Tuesday.

Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar and his South Africa counterpart Edna Bomo Molewa attend a news conference during the U.N. Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris on Tuesday.

The countries forming the BASIC group — Brazil, South Africa, India and China — on Tuesday committed themselves to a comprehensive, balanced, ambitious and legally binding agreement emerging from the Paris Climate Change conference, but cautioned that it must not deviate from the differentiation principles that are already part of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.

China, which has a parallel understanding with the United States on tackling climate change, joined the other developing countries in the bloc, but carefully skirted the divergence between the U.S. position and the stand of the developing countries on key topics.

Developing countries are being asked to adopt low carbon strategies as a commitment at COP21, but there are differences on what kind of funding would be provided for adaptation, loss and damage, and support actions. From India's perspective, events such as the Chennai and Uttarakhand floods and distressing crop failures due to drought are strongly linked to climate change, and an agreement for the future must have provisions for adaptation, and loss and damage. Even more precarious, India acknowledges, it the situation of small islands and Least Developed Countries.

On Tuesday, the BASIC group made it clear that while they were fully cooperating with France, which holds the presidency of the conference, to arrive at an agreement by Friday, they would like to see specific and clear provisions on financial support. There has been a campaign before COP21 got underway, to say substantial funding has already been mobilised — $62 billion, according to the OECD.

At a crowded joint media interaction, China’s special representative for climate change, Xie Zhenhua, gave the OECD report which claimed that $62 billion had been raised in 2014 a thumbs down, as an example of double counting. “We welcome OECD studies, but it has not been acknowledged by developed countries. This shows transparency is important. Developed countries should say how much they gave to whom, and recipients should say where they got the money and what they used it for,” he said.

India has already rejected the OECD report for the same reason, and argued that only $2.2 billion could be counted as new flows. Brazil and South Africa also said there was need for transparency to determine the real numbers on disbursement. Could loans or interest subsidy be included as climate funds?

On a second contentious issue, the review of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) for the period after 2020, Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said countries had made national choices of either a five-year or 10-year INDC. Moreover, the review provision in the Paris agreement that will compel all countries to live up to their pledges should consider not just reduction of carbon emissions [mitigation], but also adaptation and finance. This stand was endorsed by China, which wanted facilitative, non-punitive processes. Stocktaking should include adaptation and finance.

Pre-2020 action by all parties is part of the mandate given in the climate conference in Durban, South Africa four years ago. Towards this, developed countries should scale up their mitigation in the next five years, and then for the period beyond 2020, while developing countries can make voluntary bilateral donations or engage in other forms of South-South cooperation.

In the Copenhagen Accord of 2009, the reference to finance reads: “In the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation, developed countries commit to a goal of mobilising jointly $100 billion dollars a year by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries. This funding will come from a wide variety of sources, public and private, bilateral and multilateral, including alternative sources of finance.”

BASIC countries are also facing pressure from the United States and the European Union to widen the base of countries making climate finance donations, although on a “voluntary” basis, covering emerging economies.

Long term ambition

The question of how much global warming is acceptable — the long term ambition — is yet to be resolved by developing countries. The small island states and Least Developed Countries want the Paris agreement to raise the ambition to 1.5 degrees C, a target that the Brazilian Minister, Izabella Teixeria, said the BASIC group and other nations were still discussing.

A statement was issued by the BASIC group to clarify its consensus position, particularly the non-negotiable nature of equity and the Common But Differentiated Responsibilities principles in the UNFCCC.

Mr. Javadekar gave terse answers to some questions from the international media, but was quickly supplemented by the articulate South African Environment Minister, Edna Bomo Molewa and her Brazilian counterpart.

Ms. Molewa, for instance, backed up the Indian Minister, to a question on another bloc, the Like-Minded Developing Countries, holding up progress in talks. Many countries were members of different groups, with their own red lines. They were in Paris to negotiate, and not stall.

About China and U.S. climate ties, Mr. Xie said, “We have an agreement. Before the year 2020 developed countries should mobilise $100 billion. We would urge developed countries to continue their support and encourage the countries with willingness to do to also make their contribution.”

At the Conference of the Parties, the French presidency has been working hard on bringing about consensus. It has set up ten groups of facilitators, led by Ministers and diplomats, who would take up each aspect of the text, including contentious issues such as the preamble, mitigation, adaptation and loss and damage, finance, forests, implementation and acceleration of the pre-2020 action by developed nations. The proceedings are being published online, to reach a consensus quickly.

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