Durban climate talks spill over a day

The UN climate talks in Durban will continue on Saturday - though Friday was the last day of the two-week long conference.

Updated: Dec 09, 2011, 22:43 PM IST

Durban: With differences among countries on some contentious issues yet to be bridged, the UN climate talks in Durban will continue on Saturday - though Friday was the last day of the two-week long conference.

The talks Friday saw some political blame game with the European Union (EU) holding India responsible for blocking a new legally binding agreement, saying its "relatively tough stand" was hampering countries from arriving at a conclusion in Durban. India rejected the allegation and said it was open for discussions.

Meanwhile, within an hour of the EU tirade, the African Group came out in support of India, while the president of the climate conference hoped for a positive outcome.

The host South Africa called for a ministerial meeting at the eleventh hour to sort out the differences among countries in order to come out with something Saturday.

According to official sources, talks will continue and a final text is expected Saturday evening.

As the annual summit of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) started its scheduled final day in this South African port city, EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said of the BASIC quartet (Brazil, South Africa, India and China), Brazil and South Africa have agreed to the EU`s proposal while China has shown some flexibility but India is maintaining a "relatively tough stand".

The EU has proposed a "roadmap" for countries to agree to a single legally binding framework by 2015.

Hedegaard said the EU`s roadmap has been accepted by the majority of countries - small island states, least developed countries, the African Group. "But the success and failure of Durban depends on some countries that are not committed to the roadmap. So we have to get them on board."

Asked by IANS to specify the sticking points with India, Hedegaard said: "Legal form of the future agreement. India wants to continue two tracks - legal and voluntary - while more and more countries have realised that we should not for all eternity keep two tracks."

For many years, India has been saying rich countries must make legally binding commitments to cut their emissions because most of the extra GHG present in the atmosphere today are due to them. India has maintained that emission controls by developing countries should be voluntary.

The EU wants negotiations to start now and end by 2015, with the new treaty coming into force in 2020. India wants to start negotiations after the next report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is reviewed in 2015.

Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan rejected the EU allegation, saying she is here with an open mind as long as issues raised by the country are addressed.

"I had a meeting with the BASIC this morning and our stand has been the same. I have come here with an open mind, but we want to know the content of the legally binding deal. We want to know if they are going to give us a ratifiable Kyoto in return," she told IANS.

She said India`s demands have been "extremely reasonable" and "we want to know how common but differentiated responsibility, equity, intellectual property rights and trade measures will figure in the treaty."

The African Group came out in India`s support shortly after the EU tirade. Its chief negotiator, Nsala Tosi Bibanda Mpanu Mpanu of the Democratic Republic of Congo, said: "It may be easy for some countries to commit to a legally binding treaty, it may be difficult for some others. Each country has its own situation."

The US has maintained that it will not enter a legally binding treaty.

Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, president of the 17th Conference of Parties (COP), said all the countries are working together to reach a common goal. "We have been engaged and were working till 4:15 a.m. Friday so that when final text is out, nobody comes and says that they don`t know about it," she said.