India fighting to salvage equity in Doha climate talks
Doha: India is fighting an increasingly difficult battle to prevent the principle of equity from being junked from the platform of negotiations at the crucial climate change talks here, as certain powerful blocs seek to erase the baggage of history from the story of global warming.
The principle of equity in deciding who does what and how much in dealing with climate change was a founding principle of the UN convention for climate change but over the years there has been unwillingness on the part of rich nations to adopt it into actions.
The larger developing countries like India and China who are among today's major polluters but have minimal historical role in taking the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to its present level are coming under increasing pressure to share the burden of emission reduction.
While they have stated clearly that the principles of equity and historic responsibility are non-negotiable for them, it is to be seen how they continue to resist the mounting pressure as stances change and new axes emerge in the polarised world of climate change talks.
"When the framework of the UN convention on climate change was developed, equity was established as a principle but unfortunately we see today an unwillingness to accept this principle as a basis for actions," said joint secretary of environment affairs and Indian negotiator R R Rashmi.
When an agreement was arrived at last year in Durban that envisaged a post 2020 climate deal, the principle of equity was not mentioned clearly in the ambivalent text, a point that many observers called a big loss for India.
And India is trying to fend off the consequences of that cave in that came under immense pressure of not being seen as a deal breaker.
"I have heard (from negotiators) that equity is not relevant as it does not figure in the Durban platform, but we have been trying to draw people's attention to the fact that the Durban platform makes it clear that anything under it automatically comes under the convention," Rashmi said while stating India's stance on the issue.
"We want to see a political acceptance of equity as a
principle but we don't see this happening. The element of equity is not opposed to ambition but is the benchmark to consider the adequacy of actions," Rashmi said.
While G-77 and China have more or less stuck to the principle, cracks have started appearing in the common positions of poor and poorer countries.
As the US and the EU push for a regime that brings all major polluters including from the developing countries under obligations for reducing greenhouse gases, the negotiators from the world's poorer nations too appeared to take this line yesterday in demanding that the debate on equity must not be used to "derail" the climate talks.
The chair of the group of 48 Least Developed Countries said while equity was an important element, it was equally important to look at the future of things, a position that is closer to that of the EU and the US than the G-77.
The US on its part was trying to turn the concept of equity over its head as the EU saw no reason to allow some countries some more years before their emissions peaked, notwithstanding the fact that the global warming the world is looking at is because of past emissions, not the present ones.
"We see equity as a matter of fairness and engagement. One aspect of this is that whether or not something is being demanded of a country that it cannot do and this too is inequitable," said US negotiator Jonathan Pershing calling it "quite a complicated issue".
The US which has never been part of the Kyoto Protocol has never agreed to the regime, while the EU which was party to the first commitment period has been refusing to increase its reduction targets for a second commitment period.
EU negotiator Pete Bette said while historical agreements were important, future missions were more important given the present circumstances.
"Inequity is when some islands disappear, another discomforting idea is that some countries can increase their emissions to a certain ceiling even if they can reduce emissions in a cost effective way," he said equating the developing countries' insistence on their right to emit carbon to be able to grow to a right to pollute.
In the face of developed countries' attempts to wash off their hands from their historical responsibility to greenhouse gas emissions, leading Indian environmentalist
Sunita Narain says India should be ready for the worst case scenario that of walking out of any deal.
"Equity has been an inconvenient word in negotiations. If there is a further whittling down of equity whether in LCA or ADP negotiations, India must walk out," she said.
To what extent India is able to salvage the principle is to be seen.