Durban: The European Union (EU) Friday blamed India for blocking a new legally binding agreement, saying New Delhi was maintaining a "relatively tough stand", thus hampering the countries from arriving at a conclusion in Durban. Rejecting the charge, Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan said India was open to discussion if issues of equity - right to grow - were taken into account.
Within an hour of the EU tirade, the African Group came out in support of India.
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 there were two sticking points with India - future of the legal form of a global agreement to combat climate change and the timeframe by which rich and poor countries should cut their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
The EU has proposed a "roadmap" for countries to agree to a single legally binding framework by 2015.
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".
"As of today, agreement is within reach on the second commitment period of Kyoto Protocol -- only existing legal regime -- roadmap for negotiations and the future regime that would be global and legally binding," she said.
Hedegaard said 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 have been put there by them. Emission controls by developing countries should be voluntary, India has added.
"Of course, we should not all commit the same but we have to find a formula that recognises the reality of 21st century," Hedegaard responded.
"The second point is about the timeline -- when should we start negotiating for the legal agreement and when should it enter into force."
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.
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."
He pointed out that India`s per capita GHG emission was a small fraction of that of the EU. Criticising Hedegaard, he said: "We shouldn`t ostracise anyone. We should let them do what they can. If India is called a deal-breaker, how should we call the US?"
The US has maintained that it will not enter a legally binding treaty. Though EU negotiators think it may change its mind if all other countries agree, and the chief US negotiator, Todd Stern, indicated as much here Thursday, within hours the US State Department put out a statement from Washington contradicting him.
Mpanu Mpanu said he did not think the BASIC group was divided. But he admitted that there were differences within the larger group of developing countries, which negotiate at the climate talks as the Group of 77 and China - though there are more than 120 countries in the bloc.
Asked if the African Group was being "moderate" on China and India, Mpanu Mpanu said rich countries were trying to shirk their historic responsibility for having put so much GHG in the air since the start of the Industrial Age.
He also criticised the EU for seeking a roadmap to the new treaty before committing itself to emission reductions under the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. "For us, it is the wrong sequencing. We want the Kyoto Protocol first. We don`t want to throw away the principle of common but differentiated responsibility" which characterises the obligations under the protocol.
Mpanu Mpanu said the EU was "not being very constructive by playing hardball and being aggressive." He appealed to the EU "to show the kind of leadership they had shown when committing to the first period of the Kyoto Protocol" in 1997 and again in 2005.