In a major policy shift, the US will ask developing countries to commit to taking actions to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, but will not be penalised for failing to do so, Dr Jonathan Pershing, the Deputy Special Envoy on Climate Change announced on Friday.
However, this would be part of an “implementing agreement”, since the US has not signed the Kyoto Protocol, the first phase of which ends in 2012 and its terms will be renegotiated in Copenhagen this December.
“We need some mechanism to frame world commitments,” he said.
“All countries have to take action,” he said, “but these actions will be differentiated. There is no excuse for countries like China and South Korea. We expect developing countries to take on quantitative restrictions, which will be binding.”
The least developed countries, in particular, would be entitled to funding to meet these obligations, but their actions would be monitored and reviewed.
“We are seeking a comprehensive agreement so that countries report their actions and provide information on how they embarking on a low-carbon pathway,” he said.
Asked what progress there had been on funding developing countries at the UN Bonn conference, which ended on Friday, Dr Pershing said that the key issue was not the numbers, but to alter “long-term trends in development”.
He emphasised the role of the private sector to leverage funds, in sharp contrast to the Kyoto Protocol and a Norwegian proposal which place the onus on the public sector.
NGOs have been calling on industrial countries to provide $150 billion a year to developing countries to cope with climate change. “The market structure offers considerable streams for countries to implement projects,” he added.
Meena Raman from the Third World Network in Malaysia said that the US and EU were trying to shift the responsibility from the public to private sector, thereby weakening the commitments of governments.
The financial crisis had witnessed the total collapse of the market and countries were now trying to privatise the atmosphere.
Dr Pershing revealed that the US delegation had accepted the invitation of Shyam Saran, the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy on Climate Change, to visit Delhi and India was a “key player” in the climate negotiations.