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Indian PM: Copenhagen Accord Voluntary Commitment, Not Legally Binding

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday indicated that India would harden its stance on the controversial Copenhagen Accord and would give higher priority to the formal UN negotiations on climate change than the political deal India struck at the Danish capital in December.

Speaking at the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit, Singh said, “Copenhagen Accord, which we fully support and will take forward, is a catalogue of voluntary commitments and not a set of legal obligations.”

His statement, the first public enunciation of the government’s position on the accord that many industrialised countries want to turn into a legally binding agreement, made it clear that India would not be pushed further on the issue.

The hardening of stance, after India and China were seen to be buckling under pressure at Copenhagen, comes after regrouping of the BASIC countries — China, Brazil, India and South Africa — recently in Delhi to assess the consequences of aligning too closely with the political pact.

“The purpose of the Copenhagen Accord is to contribute to the negotiations on the Kyoto Protocol and on Long Term Action. It is not to substitute but to contribute the core international agreements,” Singh said. His reiteration that the accord would not override but only serve to guide the two tracks of the formal UN negotiations comes days after the Indian government, along with the three other emerging economies, refused to `associate’ themselves with the Copenhagen Accord as the industrialised countries had wanted.

The distancing of the key developing countries from the Copenhagen Accord came after an assessment that the political pact was filled with minefields that could trap the emerging economies into commitments. Indian negotiators have expressed concern that the offices of the United Nations that were pushing developing economies to `associate’ themselves with the accord were not working as neutral observers and that the industrialised countries were not playing above board on the issue.

The PM’s reiteration of equity as a central pillar of talks against this backdrop was emphatic on Friday. “The lack of global consensus on burden sharing is an even greater barrier to securing an agreement. Industrialised countries in our view need to recognise more clearly their historical role in the accumulation of greenhouse gases,” he said.

Accepting historical responsibility puts greater burden of reducing gases on developed economies and countries like US have often negated such arguments.

“They (industrialised countries) should respond with bolder initiatives to contain their future emissions,” Singh said.

Times of India, 6 February 2010