India has scored an early victory at the climate negotiations here, ensuring that the talks remain focused on adapting agricultural practices to climate change and not on costly emission reduction measures that would impact farmers directly.
India found wide-ranging support from other countries, including the entire G77+China bloc and, surprisingly, the United States.
The developed countries, especially the European Union, have for several years been keen on ensuring that climate negotiations focus on reducing emissions in the agricultural sector.
India, China and a large number of African countries have countered by pointing out that emission reduction efforts in the agricultural sector would affect farmers — who constitute a large percentage of the population, and are often the poorest, in the developing world. They also argue that the effort to reduce emissions should be focus on fossil-fuel-based activities that spew out carbon dioxide — the greatest contributor to global warming by far. As paddy fields and livestock are some of the biggest causes of emissions, emission reduction in the sector has major implications for India and China.
The Indian delegation and other developing countries were taken by surprise on the first day of the Warsaw meet when it was announced by the elected chairs of the talks that there was a plan to have a formal decision adopted on the agriculture sector by the end of the two weeks of negotiations.
Many objected, noting that such a plan had not been approved by the countries earlier and should not even be on the agenda of the talks. They pointed out that the countries had agreed only to an exchange of views in a workshop, a format in which only reports are generated and no formal decisions are adopted.
Fast-forwarding the talks to bring out a decision at Warsaw on the agricultural sector, including on the emission reduction front (very often referred to simply as mitigation), would have opened the Pandora’s box, leading to emission reduction targets being set particularly for the agriculture sector in 2015, when the new global agreement is to be signed.
Significant Indian intervention supported by many other countries ensured that the talks remained focused on adaptation and only a report on this specific matter is produced for the countries to discuss in future.
“It’s the emphatic realisation and thrust on adaptation in agriculture, given the diversity of needs and concern of poor countries, that was realised by one and all,” said Ravi S. Prasad, one of the lead negotiators for India, explaining how many countries came together on the issue.
While the door has not completely been shut on mitigation in agriculture, the window that had been surreptitiously opened this year has been firmly bolted down.
The Indian government had mandated its delegation to Warsaw to ensure that mitigation in the agricultural sector does not find space at the negotiations. In the three days here, the delegation has secured the one red line it came here with. The decision on this took two days of closed-door talks and is likely to be announced officially at the end of the week.