With 24 hours to go, a minor US concession and a truce between squabbling nation blocs on Thursday allowed some crumbs to be salvaged from the Copenhagen climate summit.
<b1>Those crumbs will allow a political statement — short on specifics and long on generalities — to be crafted for 113 heads of states to sign off on Friday, last day of the conference, leaving the much harder task of a legally binding treaty to Mexico in November 2010.
For India, in the months ahead, even this weak statement may imply more concessions from its stated position.
On Thursday India and China agreed to limited verification of domestic mitigation action—as Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh put it, “not intrusive to national sovereignty” (he did not elaborate) — so the US could be bought on board on Thursday.
It was also a day when Apisai Ielemia, the Prime Minister of Tuvalu, the nation that first stalled the summit last week asking for a clear, tough treaty — and will be the first to be submerged if sea levels rise — said Tuvaluans were leaving Copenhagen with “a bitter taste in our mouths”.
“If we wait for next year, or whatever year, our risk goes up,” said Ielemia. “We are gravely concerned about how this meeting has been run, with background deals by a select few countries... the true victims of climate change have not been heard.”
In effect, the approaching deal implies there is no question of immediately considering a temperature rise of no more than 1.5 deg C by 2050, which the small island nations, fearing submergence, say is non-negotiable for them.
The last-ditch efforts to get a strong political statement at Copenhagen showed some progress after India, China and G-77, a block of 133 developing countries, agreed to a text based on United Nations drafts from two negotiation tracks: on Long term Cooperative Action (LCA) and the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.
Negotiators were working on the final text at the time of going to press, so a statement can be drafted by Friday afternoon and adopted that evening.
The developing world was looking for concessions from the West and the second one — the first was a European commitment late Wednesday to give the poorest countries $139 billion by 2020 — came an hour before the truce, when US Secretary for State Hillary Clinton announced “support” for a $ 100 billion annual global climate fund.
The condition: Emerging economies like China and India, both are seeking Western money too, chip in, and make “transparent and verifiable” their domestic mitigation actions.
That verification is against Indian and Chinese policy, but till the time of going to press, numerous backroom meetings were on, and it appeared no one wanted to be a deal breaker.
“It (the US announcement) was important for an operational political statement (on Friday) in Copenhagen,” said Clinton. German chancellor Angela Merkel and Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, who heads the European Union, also said, in official speeches, that emerging economies must contribute to the global climate fund for poorer nations.
“It is a positive step,” Indian Environment minister Jairam Ramesh said in reaction to the US announcement. Mexico, a developing country, has already announced a contribution to the annual global mitigation fund, which was announced by European Union on Wednesday.
Two hours after the US announcement, Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen called a meeting of representatives of the developing nations including G-77 plus China, island nations and India.
“All of us have agreed to a political outcome based on two tracks (LCA and Kyoto Protocol),” said Xie Zhenhua, vice minister of China's National Development and Reform Commission, after the meeting.
Earlier in the day, both India and China had accused rich countries of stalling the talks. “From the beginning the Danish government since has been trying for a political outcome,” Ramesh said. “All along there has been delay, delay and delay, so that this political statement could be decided by the heads of states…this not acceptable to us. The negotiations have been stalled”.
By afternoon, Ramesh said it was clear that heads of the states would adopt a political statement based on the texts of the two groups constituted to chalk out differences on LCA and Kyoto Protocol. “The statement will consist of issues on which there is consensus among all parties,” he said.
Negotiators will decide the final text, possibly working into Thursday night.
The working groups of the LCA and the Kyoto Protocol met several times over the last week but failed to get all 192 countries on board. A Danish attempt to fast-track the working groups led to a furious reaction from poor nations, led by the African block, which walked out of the discussions on Monday.
Finally, on Thursday morning, Danish PM Rasmussen nominated his trusted aide, Environment minister Connie Hedegaard, to head new groups on LCA and Kyoto. He did not specify a deadline.
Rasmussen conceded a demand of the G-77 plus China that the Kyoto Protocol will first be discussed. The Kyoto Protocol, which the West wants to discard, says emission cuts must be limited to the developed world.
Several bilateral meetings between leaders are scheduled. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will meet Chinese premier Wen Jiabao.
Ramesh said Copenhagen had several positives for India, like the “rock solid solidarity among the BASIC countries” (India, China, Brazil and South Africa).