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India talks tough on climate issues

After showing flexibility for over two years India has toughened its stand on climate issues, refusing any verification regime for voluntary climate actions and seeking a re-look at Cancun agreements to include equity as an “essential” parameter for further talks and extension of Kyoto Protocol. Chetan Chauhan reports.

delhi Updated: Sep 15, 2011 23:45 IST
Chetan Chauhan

After showing flexibility for over two years India has toughened its stand on climate issues, refusing any verification regime for voluntary climate actions and seeking a re-look at Cancun agreements to include equity as an “essential” parameter for further talks and extension of Kyoto Protocol.

Former environment minister Jairam Ramesh had shown flexibility but the new minister Jayanthi Natarajan abandoned the soft approach after her first meeting on climate change issues with 150 environment ministers in South Africa.

“Talks are a continuous process,” Natarajan said, when asked whether there would be an agreement at the next conference of 195 countries in Durban, South Africa later this year. “Our position is clear that we want second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol,” she said.

A big change in India’s flexible approach was related to review of voluntary emission control measures, known as international consultation and analysis (ICA), born on behest of India and China in Copenhagen in 2009.

ICA is the proposed transparency mechanism for the voluntary climate actions by the developing countries whereas International Assessment and Review (IAR) is a similar mechanism for binding emission cuts for the rich nations.

“We are not accepting ICA in the present form as it is too intrusive,” said environment secretary T Chatterjee. This comes after US climate negotiator Todd Stern met Natarajan and spelt out that ICA would mean review of environmental aspects in domestic policies. “We cannot allow such a thing”.

Natarajan, who met over 150 environment ministers in Pretoria, South Africa, said India took a significant step ahead at Cancun climate talks in 2010 by agreeing to internationalising its voluntary domestic actions.

“That was important flexibility shown by us to contribute to a level of confidence and trust in the process,” she said. For future, the minister made it clear the rich countries should provide “additional financial resources to the developing countries to address climate change” through voluntary actions. Providing financial resources is a binding committee for the developed world under the climate framework convention.

India has also proposed three agenda items ---- equity, trade and technology related to Intellectual Property Rights ---- for the Durban climate conference.

Natarajan also showed her unhappiness with Cancun agreements, for which Ramesh had received praise of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. She said some issues related to Bali Roadmap, which had been left out from the Cancun agreements, will have to be brought back to the negotiating table.

The European Union and United States may find Natarajan stiffer than her predecessor as she had made it clear that it is time for development world to pay for historical emissions rather than seek concessions from the developing world.