‘World in much better position to tackle climate change’
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Last Updated: Saturday, December 12, 2009, 08:58
‘World in much better position to tackle climate change’All eyes are now set on the high-profile climate change negotiations taking place in Denmark. The Copenhagen Summit on climate change has gained even more significance with China and India pledging carbon intensity cuts by the year 2020, and the US vowing a 17% cut in emissions.

In an exclusive interview with Kamna Arora of Zeenews.com, an expert on climate policy, Taiya M Smith, discusses the ongoing UN talks and significance of India’s pledge towards achieving a political accord in Copenhagen.

Taiya M Smith is a senior associate in Energy and Climate Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Kamna: Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is seeking a legally binding substantive outcome at the Copenhagen if it is accompanied by an equitable burden-sharing paradigm. Will his stand help achieve something substantial in Denmark?

Smith: The Indian commitment is an important step towards achieving a political agreement in Copenhagen. However, few countries are in a position to reach a legally-binding agreement, and as many of the issues around long-term contributions are outstanding, it might not be in the favour of developing countries to reach a binding agreement yet. A political agreement is a powerful step forward so long as it is accompanied with a timeline for when a legally binding agreement can be reached.

Kamna: Should any agreement in Copenhagen take into account that some nations contributed to the initial global pollution stock much more than others?

Smith: Any agreement will distinguish between industrialised and developing countries. It is important that the agreement recognises developing countries’ need to continue to grow their economies and for industrial countries to continue to keep their economies strong. However, there needs to be pressure on both developed and developing countries to ensure that they develop new ways to power their economies in a sustainable manner.
Kamna: How can the formation of a world governance body help in monitoring carbon emissions?

Smith: There are a number of options for how to monitor whether countries are fulfilling their obligations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. One of them is to establish an international body that would allow countries to monitor each other through a dispute reconciliation mechanism, such as the way the WTO operates. This could turn out to be one of the most effective ways to ensure both that China develops a strong internal system and that the international community has the ability to engage with China on the data that it issues. For such a system to work, China would have to be willing to report all its data to the management organisation, not just those figures associated with internationally funded projects.

Kamna: Are global leaders serious enough to counter climate threat?

Smith: Some are, and most importantly, the biggest emitters are serious. With the US and China both taking a very serious position, and now India also choosing a position, we are in a much better position to tackle this issue than ever before. US President (Barack) Obama is very serious about this issue as is Senator (John) Kerry. Their joint leadership in Copenhagen should prove pivotal for the negotiations.

Kamna: Copenhagen meeting is a historic meeting. Comment.

Smith: This will be the largest COP (the 15th Conference of the Parties) in history. What this means is that countries have come to the conclusion that climate change is real and that we must act jointly to ensure we manage this threat. At the same time, the stakes are high and every country is looking for the best economic deal that it can get out of the negotiations.

First Published: Saturday, December 12, 2009, 08:58

(The views expressed by the author are personal)
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