Climate change is the chief focus of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meet (CHOGM) that opened on Friday in this Caribbean island nation, a week ahead of the mega conference on climate in Copenhagen from December 7.
In an unprecedented move, UN chief Ban Ki-moon, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Danish PM Lars Rasmussen are all attending as special invitees. “It shows a sense of urgency among nations,” said Shyam Saran, prime minister’s special envoy on climate change.
But India is not comfortable with Trinidad’s decision, as the host of the CHOGM, to invite these three. Their presence may adversely impact the attempts to form a joint negotiating position for all Commonwealth countries at Copenhagen.
Indian diplomats felt developed countries may pressure developing ones into accepting a climate change agreement that may not be legally binding.
It may not even be adhering to the spirit of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) — that countries have common but differentiated responsibilities in tackling the phenomenon and mitigation measures must be based on principles of equity.
Arguments put forward by the developed world that some developing countries such as India and China that are large emitters of carbon and growing economies should take up more burden could find favour with smaller countries.
The presence of three special invitees at CHOGM may add force to this argument, some Indian diplomats felt.
Nearly half of the 53 member states of the Commonwealth — an association of erstwhile British colonies or dependencies — are island nations highly vulnerable to rising sea levels caused by increasing temperatures.
Hence CHOGM will have a special session on climate change, within the overall theme “partnering for a more equitable and sustainable future,” and will come out with a “political statement that will add value to the Copenhagen conference,” according to the organisers.
“Economic crisis, energy security and climate change are multiple crises that countries are facing today. These crises are linked and require an integrate approach,” said Saran.
The decision of China to reduce the intensity of its carbon emissions by 40-45
percent by 2020 does not affect India’s position any way, said Saran. “China has announced voluntary measures, which India is also doing. The question is whether developed countries are willing to underwrite the cost of these, as per UNFCC and the Bali Action Plan. So far, they have refused to accept anything that is legally binding.”