India, allies demand differentiation back in rulebook for climate change

An exhibition of India at the venue of the COP24 UN Climate Change Conference, in Katowice on Thursday. (photo: reuters)
India, the Africa Group, Gulf countries, and the G77+China group took a tough stance at the Katowice change talks on ensuring the principle of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR) operationalised in the rulebook to the Paris Agreement.

Ravi Shankar Prasad, India’s lead negotiator at the talks, warned that if developed countries did not agree to the relatively softer language of the Paris Agreement on differentiation to be reflected in the rulebook, India would push for reverting to the more stringent form of differentiation that the mother convention: the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change contains.

“If we have do not like the Paris Agreement language we can go back to the annexes of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change,” he said in a meeting of all countries open to observers but not the media. 

The principle of equity and CBDR require countries to take on the burden of fighting climate change in proportion to their historical responsibility for causing it.

The Convention provides a stringent version of differentiation, which puts almost all the burden of fighting climate change on developed countries. The Paris Agreement, on the other hand, while being under the Convention, in keeping with the rising flows of emissions from emerging economies puts relatively more onus on countries such as India and China. But, it still maintains a greater set of obligations on developed countries. For example, while developed countries are necessarily required to provide funds for climate change, developing countries can do so voluntarily.

But, in writing the rulebook to the Paris Agreement at Katowice, developed countries such as the US and the Umbrella-- group, which comprises US, Australia, Japan, Canada and Norway, have demanded that the differentiation be diluted further and in many cases parity be set between emerging economies and developed nations. They have often claimed in the last week that the Paris Agreement does not provide for ‘bifurcation’.

On Thursday in the closed-door meeting, when the co-chairs of the talks took responsibility to produce a second iteration of the draft rule-book, India and many other developing countries warned that the next draft needed to be more balanced that it had been in the first case. Business Standard reviewed records kept by negotiators of the meeting.

“Any rules and guidelines developed here cannot contradict the Paris Agreement,” Prasad said. “The language of the Paris Agreement must be reflected (in the rule-book). We find in (rules for) finance and in other sections parties talking of ‘reporting parties’ instead of ‘developed and developing countries. We find provisions and iterations have tried to dilute the issue of differentiation, particularly in (the rules for the) Nationally Determined Contributions or NDCs, This is non-negotiable,” he said. 

India also warned that the draft rulebook as it stood enhanced reporting and other obligations of developing countries but not of developed countries while the Paris Agreement required both sides of the divide to do more. 

On climate finance, Prasad told delegates and co-chairs that the developed countries were not allowing rules for transparency on how they provide against their climate finance and technology obligations. 

“We do see a step back happening with some of the texts (draft rules). On finance we notice the dilution of the obligations of developed countries to provide finance and instead introduction of obligations on developing countries to do so. We see the reference to new and additional finance has been deleted and differentiation is almost gone,” said Wael Aboulmagd, chairperson of the G77+China group.

The Like-Minded Developing Country group that includes China, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia besides India, also added their voice in support. “We would like to remind Parties that the Paris Agreement is to enhance the implementation of the Convention and is to be implemented based on equity and CBDR. We request that this be the premise of your iteration,” said the group.

At the time of writing of the report on December 7, the co-chairs had begun releasing different parts of the second iteration of the draft rulebook.

By Saturday the negotiators are required to resolve as many differences as they can and then the draft would be escalated to the level of incoming ministers to resolve the more difficult differences. 

“It will depend a lot on how balanced a text the co-chairs can produce. We hear concerns that in some parts, the proposals of overarching G77+China group of all developing countries are being erased just because the other side does not want them. If that is true, it could lead to lot of problems. The co-chairs have taken the responsibility upon themselves. They must not delete options if these remain contested,” said one lead negotiator who leads talks for one of the developing country groups. 

The talks at the negotiators' levels are expected to go as long as Saturday late night to ready as simplified and agreed upon rulebook as they can for the ministers to begin dealing with next week.

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