Skip to content

China And India Dig Heels In Over Carbon Emission Scrutiny

The two steps forward, one step back nature of international climate change negotiations was again underlined yesterday after it emerged that China and India’s support for the Copenhagen Accord remains highly conditional.

The two countries this week wrote to the UN confirming they could be “listed ” in the agreement, which they helped to broker at the Copenhagen climate change summit last year.

All large emitters barring Russia have now signalled formal support for the agreement, which aims to limit temperature rises to two degrees and includes voluntary commitments from nations to curb carbon emissions and increase climate funding for the world’s poorest countries.

However, China and India’s listing falls short of full “association” with the accord, and senior negotiators from both countries were yesterday quick to dismiss suggestions that the agreement could replace the faltering UN-backed negotiating texts that are aiming to replace the Kyoto Protocol when it expires in 2012.

The US, backed by Europe, has been pushing for the UN negotiating tracks to be sidelined in favour of negotiations based on the template set out in the Copenhagen Accord. The proposals have been fiercely opposed by developing countries, which are refusing to ditch the Kyoto negotiating process. They fear that such a move would leave industrialised nations without any binding commitments to cut emissions.

Arguments over the structure of negotiations dominated much of the Copenhagen summit last year and led to the accord being patched together in the final hours of the meeting.

In the letter to the UN from India, environment and forests minister Rajani Ranjan Rashmi rejected outright suggestions that the Copenhagen Accord should take precedence in this year’s negotiations, insisting “the accord is not a new track of negotiations or a template for outcomes”.

China adopted a similar stance with prime minister Wen Jiabao stating that it is “neither viable nor acceptable” to use the Copenhagen Accord as the starting point for new negotiations.

One of China’s lead negotiators, vice chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission Xie Zhenhua, also insisted yesterday that neither China or India were willing to drop their opposition to US proposals for a mechanism to verify countries’ emission reductions.

According to reports in India’s Hindu newspaper, Xie said that while both countries had agreed to “verification that is non-intrusive” at Copenhagen they would reject any formal verification scheme. “Autonomous efforts must not be subject to MRV [Measurement, Reporting and Verification],” he said, adding that international inspection of emission reductions would represent an “issue of sovereignty”.

With the US and European Union similarly showing little willingness to compromise on the issue of verification, these latest negotiating “red lines” from China and India will further dampen optimism that genuine progress can be delivered towards an international climate change treaty this year.

BusinessGreen, 11 March 2010