Strengthening Kyoto

The joint statement issued at the conclusion of the Second Meeting of Ministers of the BASIC group countries on climate change in New Delhi is notable for the sober message it sends to the developed world and the United Nations: that progress on climate talks will depend on a reassertion of the central principle of common but differentiated responsibilities outlined by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The cohesive response of China, Brazil, South Africa, and India underscores the view of the developing world that the Copenhagen Accord chose to give insufficient importance to this central tenet. Instead, it tried to get the developing countries to accept a regime of iniquitous emissions cuts. The UNFCCC process must now correct this fundamental distortion and set future negotiations firmly on an equitable path. That road map, drawn up earlier in Bali, emphasises the importance of long-term cooperative action while affirming that economic and social development and poverty eradication are global priorities. Clearly, the development imperative needs to be centre-staged again to give the climate conference to be held in Mexico later this year a fair chance to chart the future of the Kyoto Protocol.

The Annex I countries under the Kyoto Protocol, who make up the developed bloc, must now take the lead and announce quantified emissions reductions for themselves. In parallel, they must give form to promised funding mechanisms for mitigation and adaptation. Such leadership is vital to get other high-emission countries on board, and create the $100 billion annual fund that is envisaged by 2020 to help the least developed and most vulnerable countries. It is significant that as an expression of their sincerity, the BASIC Four have affirmed their intention to submit voluntary national mitigation actions to the UNFCCC by January 31. The onus now lies on the developed world to do its part. The demand that there should be several rounds of discussions leading to the Mexico conference is wholly justified. These should be inclusive and transparent. The absence of such transparency at Copenhagen resulted in a highly visible crisis of credibility for the entire process. Early action is also needed on another front. The funds from the $10 billion pledged under the Copenhagen Accord for countries most vulnerable to climate change impact must start flowing quickly. There is yet another important and positive outcome to the common strategy adopted by the BASIC countries. It has fostered active South-South cooperation among the developing nations to advance science. Given that intellectual property rights on technology remain a major barrier to achieving higher energy efficiencies, such joint efforts involving India and China hold great promise.

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