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Climate talks: India against amending Kyoto Protocol
Betwa Sharma in Copenhagen
December 13, 2009
India on Sunday made it clear that it was opposed to any amendment to the Kyoto Protocol as the 12-day climate talks headed into the second week where environment ministers would seek to give a political push to the negotiations that were in disarray.

Informal talks among the environment ministers on the draft deal, criticised by rich nations and emerging economies, continued over the weekend with the hope that they could agree on a text that could be put before the heads of state and government assembling for the plenary in Copenhagen later next week.

"There are articles bracketing the annex 1 and non-annex countries and allows annex 1 (developed nations) to abandon Kyoto, which is not the right message to give at this point of time," India's Environment Secretary Vijay Sharma said.

The highlight of the past week was an attempt by tiny Pacific Island nation Tuvalu to stall the negotiations by staging a walkout as the chair of the conference refused to take up its proposal for limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees celsius from the pre-industrial years.

However, Danish Minister Connie Hedegaard, chairing the talks, insisted that procedural advances in the first six days had been 'fantastic.' "The core discussions... have really started," she said adding the delegates 'still have a daunting task in front of us over the next few days.'

Sticking to its one protocol approach, developing countries like India, China and Brazil are opposing attempts led Tuvalu and Alliance of Small Island States to add another protocol to the Kyoto Protocol at the December 7-18 Copenhagen Climate Change Summit, held under tight security.

"Our focus is on heightened implementation of the convention," Sharma said, noting that 'the spotlight is on existing commitments.'

Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, who is in Copenhagen to participate in the ministerial meet, has said India will play a constructive role in the climate negotiations but slammed efforts of rich nations to make domestic emission reduction claims by developing nations legally-binding and verifiable.

Ramesh asserted that India's national voluntary domestic measures to tackle global warming were not up for global scrutiny and progress on these would be checked only by the country's parliament.

India and other developing nations suspect that Europe's support for a new protocol is also an attempt to weaken the Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol sets binding targets for 37 developed countries for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to an average of five per cent against 1990 levels over the five-year period 2008-2012.

Copenhagen was swamped by thousands of protestors who demanded strong action from the delegates at the conference. Several of them were detained as the protests turned violent but were set free except for 13 who were still in custody.

The first draft treaty submitted to the conference on Friday was criticised by both the developed and developing nations for different reasons. The developed countries dubbed the document as 'flawed' for not imposing obligations on emerging economies to check global warming, while India objected to the mention of a peaking year till which the emissions would be allowed to increase.

"Several provisions in the draft are inconsistent and obviously in conflict with the convention provisions pertinent to historical responsibility and equity," Sharma said.

However, the European Union, like Tuvalu and AOSIS have said that this Copenhagen summit needs to produce a document much stronger than the Kyoto Protocol that neither puts obligations on the United States nor on emerging economies.

R K Pachauri, head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, warned that failure to come out with a pact to combat global warming will be a 'major setback' to the world.

"If we are able to get a good agreement it would create an enormous amount of confidence in the ability of human society to be able to act on a multilateral basis. If we fail I don't think everything is lost but it certainly would be a major setback," he said.

Sweden's environment minister Andreas Carlgren said, "If we were to end up with an agreement where the only legally binding part would be the Kyoto Protocol then we would not manage to achieve what is needed."

Image: Demonstrators hold signboards as they march to the UN Climate Change Conference 2009 in Copenhagen

Photograph: Bob Strong / Reuters

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