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India says NO to legally binding emission cuts

Last updated on: December 9, 2010 16:14 IST

India says NO to legally binding emission cuts

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Betwa Sharma in Cancun


Facing pressure to accept legally binding emissions cuts, India on Thursday made it clear that it will not budge from its long-held position on the issue, while insisting that it has shown flexibility on various other matters like domestic voluntary reductions.

India was not ready to show flexibility at this stage on the issue of binding emission cuts and will insist on a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol which is set to expire in 2012, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said at the UN climate summit in Cancun, Mexico.

"There can be no flexibility on these," he said.

As per Kyoto Protocol, rich nations are supposed to take legally binding emission cuts, while no such provision exists for developing countries.

India, along with most of other developing countries, has been maintaining that taking up binding emissions cuts will hamper its growth, including poverty alleviation efforts.

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Referring to the 'flexible' stance taken by India in the past one year since the Copenhagen climate meet, Ramesh said India's position on climate change has been evolving and needs to evolve further.

In this context, he referred to the domestic voluntary cuts being taken by the country as also the decision to allow scrutiny of its climate actions.

He later said that he made the remarks to reassure developing countries like Nepal and Bangladesh -- which have been piling up pressure on emerging economies for a legally-binding agreement on emissions cuts -- that "New Delhi is committed to fulfilling its domestic obligations to cut its carbon intensity."

Among developing countries calling for a legally-binding commitment are India's close allies on climate change -- Brazil and South Africa -- as well as African states and small island nations.

In the next two years, the clamour from fellow developing countries to take on legally-binding commitments is expected to grow.

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Image: Activists at Cancun climate meet.
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"As the demands build up, India needs to demand from a position of sensitivity," Ramesh said.

earlier, cracks seemed to have developed among the developing countries including the BASIC (Brazil, South Africa, India and China) group on accepting legally binding emission cut at the climate change conference in Cancun, Mexico, with India saying there is concerted pressure on it and China to accept such cuts.

The United States, India and China were not in favour of accepting a legally binding agreement, which is supported by other developed countries, and several nations within the G77 including African nations and Least Developed Countries.

"There is a concerted move by a group of developed countries using developing countries to put pressure on India and China and within BASIC, since South Africa and Brazil are supportive of a legally binding agreement," Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said.

"There are differences within BASIC. India and China are united on this issue. Brazil and South Africa are united," he said.

"This pressure is coming from developed countries through AOSIS (Alliance of Small Island States), BASIC and LDCs."

"At this stage India's strategy is to keep the door open, the door was being closed on us," he told journalists.

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Pushing hardest for a legally binding treaties are small island nations, which are the most vulnerable to climate change.

Countries in India's vicinity - Bangladesh, Maldives, Bhutan and Nepal - are also supporting a legally binding agreement.

India's close allies on the climate change issue - Brazil and South Africa - are also in favor of a legally binding agreement, which is causing divisions within the BASIC group.

With the conference closing tomorrow, India has objected to raising the issue so late in the day.

It has also said that currently it is important to concentrate on the Kyoto Protocol, which is the only legally binding treaty on climate change, but its future is uncertain since several countries want to abandon it.

Speaking at an open meeting here, Ramesh told delegates that "all countries must take on binding commitments under appropriate legal form."

Later, the minister indicated that he raised this point to assure countries close to India like Nepal and Bangladesh that New Delhi was committed to fulfilling its domestic commitments.

"We will honour these," he said, noting that India was not ready to reflect these in an international agreement yet.

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Image: Life-size casts by British artist Jason de Caires Taylor stand in Cancun.
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The present discussion has also raised questions about what constitutes the "bindingness" of a treaty.

India, for instance, argues that consensual decisions taken under annual climate conferences can be considered binding.

Indian diplomats here also argue that New Delhi's promise to the parliament for cutting down carbon intensity can be considered binding since it's a "serious" nation.

Other countries, however, argue that binding needs to be more formal maybe on the lines of the Kyoto Protocol.

India has also consistently argued that the substance of any outcome needs to be detailed before the form is decided - a position which is supported by the Philippines and Egypt.

Three hundred and thirty three figures were submerged off the resort of Cancun with the hope that the low-acidity cement figures, designed to be anti-corrosive and mimic rock, will be transformed over time into artificial reefs.

Ramesh indicated that India would not agree to any legally binding agreement until three things are clear - the content of legally binding, the penalty of non-compliance and the system of monitoring.

"We are not ready to commit to a legally binding treaty," he said.

Bolivia, which also objects to a legally binding treaty, is concerned that this new pursuit will take attention away from the Kyoto Protocol, which puts the legal responsibility to cut emissions squarely on the shoulders of developed countries.

Ramesh also stressed that this episode busted the "mythology" that G-77 spoke as one voice.

"We are under attack inside G 77," he said. "India has to approach this issue very cautiously."


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