Cabinet clears climate negotiation strategy

Smoke rises from chimneys of a thermal power plant at Kolaghat, about 75 kilometers (47 miles) west of Calcutta, India, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2009. The $10 billion a year proposed by rich nations to help the poor adapt to climate change is "not sufficient" and the gap between what's offered and what's needed could wreck the Copenhagen climate conference, American billionaire investor-philanthropist George Soros said Thursday. (AP Photo/Bikas Das)   | Photo Credit: Bikas Das

The Union Environment and Forests Minister Jayanthi Natarajan and climate negotiators’ team got the approval from the Union Cabinet on Thursday to reassert the importance of historical emissions in the new climate agreement, which is to be discussed at Warsaw beginning November 11.

The Cabinet cleared the non-negotiable lines for the team deciding that India would ensure that in a pledge-based top-down agreement the onus to take emission cuts for meeting the 2 degree Celsius target lies strongly on the developed countries.

At the ongoing U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) talks, the 195-member countries have all but come around to having what is called a bottoms-up approach under the new global climate compact to be signed in 2015. In this format each country volunteers targets for emission reduction based on its capability instead of a top-down approach where targets are set down through the negotiations for each country. Some countries have suggested that the volunteered targets can then be assessed to see if they add up to meet the requirement of keeping the global temperature rise below 2 degree Celsius. The U.S. has disagreed and demanded that increasing the volunteered targets should be left to the respective country to decide and there should not be a formal mechanism forcing the nations to do so.

In the Cabinet decision taken on Thursday, the government has decided that the global agreement should be along the bottoms-up approach but any gap between volunteered cuts of all countries and the cumulative global agreement should be met by the developed countries which have a historical obligation to fight climate change.

Along the lines of Ms. Natarajan’s statement in the interview to The Hindu, the government has left the door open to make a voluntary commitment under the 2015 agreement to reduce the growth of emissions. But India would not agree to processes outside the UNFCCC set up to fight climate change become mandatory. The Cabinet also decided that sector-specific targets or targets for administrative entities lower than the Union government, such as city and town councils, would not be agreed to.

The 2015 agreement would have to be under the existing U.N. convention and not in breach of any of its elements and principles for India to be part of it, the Cabinet decided.

Ms. Natarajan will lead the Ministerial round of the two-week negotiations and has been empowered to work with the BASIC and the Like-Minded Developing Countries to ensure that the rich countries put a clear timeline to how and when they shall provide the promised U.S. $100 billion by 2020.

India will not permit private investments in green technologies from developed world be sold as a replacement for inter-country transfers.

The Cabinet has also reasserted India’s position on the controversial issue of HFCs — refrigerant gases that harm the climate — which had recently found support from China and select other G20 countries besides other.

The Indian climate team has been tasked to ensure that any phase out of the gases is done under the principles of the UNFCCC which includes the principle of common but differentiated responsibility and equity.

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