The big disputes have grabbed popular attention: Between the rich and the developing nations; between developing and poor; between the US and everyone else; between small islands and big bullies.
But evidence of progress on some important details emerged on Tuesday as the United Nations released seven drafts on different aspects of climate change. There is general agreement on the proposals on technology and how nations can adapt to climate change. Beyond that there is a sea of disputes.
The proposals and what they might mean for India:
Saving the forests
If the world’s forests are kept intact, the world can save four times the carbon presently emitted. Proposal sets target for 2020: cut the rate of deforestation in half; provides sale of carbon credits by keeping forests intact.
Problems: No figure yet on how much rich countries — they want strict monitoring, which poorer countries refuse — will pay to save forests.
India angle: 21 per cent of India is forests, which capture 11 per cent of national emissions. That amount will be deducted from India’s total emissions. Also a source of income by selling carbon credits for uncut forests.
Developing countries need technology to move to a low-carbon economy. The draft outlines how it can be transferred.
Problems: Doesn’t say how much money; doesn’t address contentious issue of intellectual property rights of richer countries, which want poorer countries to pay for licencing. West also does not want to fund countries like India and China.
India angle: Draft speaks of an innovation centre in India to develop clean technologies. It will also get funds for adopting cleaner technologies and promoting public private partnerships. Plus a technology transfer fund.
Moving to a low-carbon economy requires nations to do a lot on their own. The National Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMA) for developing countries specifically outlines what nations like India and China can do, provides a registry to seek money from the rich.
Problems: India and China do not want their NAMAs scrutinised by the West.
India angle:The proposal for a registry, providing funding for domestic mitigation action, would help India to get money for big-ticket projects like the national solar mission.
Domestic mitigation plans specify interests of small and marginal farmers, who constitute 90 per cent of world’s total. Draft talks about more money for climate-related agriculture research.
Problems: India agrees with national food security law but is queasy about option of bringing indigenous people (tribals in India) under national mitigation laws. Rich countries want vulnerable farmers identified, which is hard to do, say developing countries.
India angle: More than 94 per cent of Indian farmers are small and marginal. They can get weather-change resistant seeds at low cost.
Special development incentives to the developing world to mitigate impact of climate change on women and children, with funding.
Problems: Rich countries want to give money only to least developed countries, not India and China.
India angle: A 2007 UN report said 70 per cent of South Asia was vulnerable to climate change. Money from these policies can help the poorest of the poor.
Preparing for meltdown
The draft speaks of assistance to the developing world from the rich to meet the national challenges of climate change.
Problems: Doesn’t give a figure for funding. Rich countries want existing funds for development activities to be used.
India angle: Money can be used for agriculture research, disaster management and early warning systems.
The draft proposes an action plan to evaluate damage from extreme weather and a global network to share knowledge and resources on disasters.
Problems: No money specified. Rich countries say adoption funds should be for poor countries and island nations.
India angle: Could help begin a district-level plan to adapt to extreme weather. Very little such work in India.