At the Paris climate change summit, there is talk of restricting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius instead of 2 degrees Celsius, which has been negotiated so far. This would give India less space to grow by limiting carbon emissions further, reports Darryl D’Monte, reporting exclusively for Rediff.com from the French capital.
With only a day left for the UN climate summit to conclude, industrial countries are trying to form new alliances with most developing nations -- barring China and India -- in a bid to break their unity.
The alliance, loosely and informally called the “high ambition coalition”, was formed “in secrecy” -- believe it or not -- over drinks on the sidelines of a climate meet in July in Paris.
The fact that Marshall Islands’ foreign minister, Tony de Brum, was the moving force behind the 107-member coalition, which comprises 79 African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, the US and all of EU member states, speaks for itself.
The small island states have traditionally been the most vocal in successive climate summits. They are admittedly the first to literally go under water with ocean level rise as a consequence of global warming.
In a stunning publicity stunt just before the abortive Copenhagen summit in 2009, President Mohamed Nasheed of Maldives, now imprisoned, held a cabinet meeting under water, with àll ministers dressed in scuba diving suits.
However critical their situation, along with the most vulnerable and least developed countries, they should be wary of any alliances with industrial countries which have caused climate change to begin with. They can hardly make common ground with the globe’s offenders.
Miguel Arias Cañete, EU Energy and Climate Commissioner, said: “These negotiations are not about them and us. They are about all of us, developed and developing countries, finding common ground.
"We urge other countries to join us. Together we can do it. The EU stands shoulder to shoulder with its long term partners in the African, Caribbean and Pacific regions."
De Brum said the countries would act as a “mosquito fleet”, sending envoys to various parties with which they have bilateral ties and “bite them in a nice way”, reports the Guardian. They are approaching India as well, but not China.
In tandem with environment ministers from Gabon, Germany and Papua New Guinea, Canete said that all 107 countries were united in favour of a strong Paris accord.
As part of these divisive tactics, the EU is taking the lead in funding such countries bilaterally. It has promised Euro 475 million as new climate finance to the African, Caribbean and Pacific group of countries by 2020.
Germany has increased its funding for adaptation to climate change for developing counties by Euro 50 million, to reach a total of Euro 140 million.
In addition, the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative has secured over $10 billion from the EU, Sweden and G7 to support its plan to deliver 10 gigawatts of additional renewable energy capacity by 2020.
The EU and most vulnerable countries have a four-point agenda for the Paris accord. It must be:
Legally binding, inclusive, fair, ambitious, durable and dynamic
Set out a clear and operational long-term emissions goal which is in line with science
Establish a review mechanism for countries to assess their efforts to tackle climate change every five years
Include a transparency and accountability system to track progress on the delivery of national commitments
In addition, there is talk of restricting temperature rise to 1.5?C instead of 2?C, which has been negotiated so far. This would give India less space to grow by limiting carbon emissions further.
Since the Durban summit in 2011, rich countries have been trying to drive a wedge between the G77 and China group of 135 countries in climate negotiations. India headed this group in the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit in 1992.
The BASIC group of emerging countries, with Brazil, South Africa, India and China, has been most vocal in championing equity and differentiation in the talks.
A new twist in the deliberations is the redefinition of BASIC countries in a “new", "changing" list because of their high aggregate total emissions and rapid economic growth. But all have huge numbers of the poor as well.
Moreover, fingers are pointing towards the fact that South Korea, Singapore, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE do not figure in the UN’s 1992 category of developed countries but have high per capita incomes.
The EU said it was unfair that a nation like Romania, ranked 52 in per capita wealth this year and with a current GDP eight times its size in 1992, has to pay when Saudi Arabia, ranked ninth, one notch below the US, does not.
However, even allowing for such anomalies, this is a red herring because it detracts attention from the fact that industrial countries since the 1850s have contributed to global warming and if equity is enforced -- like the polluter pays principle -- will have to compensate those who have either not industrialised or joined the race very late.
Three perceptive Indian observers – T Jayaraman from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences; Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general of the Centre for Science & Environment; and Anand Patwardhan from Maryland University and IIT Bombay --- on Wednesday released a statement pointing out that if Paris agrees to reduce the target to 1.5?C, this will require developing countries to be allotted a greater share of the remaining carbon budget.
“We would also like to emphasise the fact that meeting this temperature goal would require massive enhancement of financial and technological support from the developed countries to the developing countries so that they are able to move quickly onto low-carbon development pathways,” they said.
“In addition, developed countries will have to significantly increase the level of their own efforts and reach net zero emissions in the next 5-10 years. In the absence of such commitments, a 1.5?C temperature target would remain a hollow shell -- devoid of any real significance.”
Image: Paris is full of protestors of all hues. Photograph: Carlos Garcia.
Senior journalist Darryl D’Monte will be filing his despatches from the Paris climate change summit exclusively for Rediff.com.