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Post-Kyoto: India Re-introduces Differentiation Between Developed And Developing Countries

India has attempted to re-introduce differentiation between developed and developing countries, the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, in the discussions on emission reduction under the Durban Platform. The agreement arrived at Durban to embark on a new global regime, including all countries had been silent on the issue of differentiating between developed and developing countries.

In its submission on increasing ambition level under the Durban Platform to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, submitted on Tuesday, India has sought to remedy this gap.

“As the outcome of the process under Durban platform will be applicable to all Parties and this outcome is to be reached under the Convention, all principles and provisions of the Convention will apply in totality to both the process and its results. Accordingly, the efforts for increase in the level of ambition must be made, inter alia, in accordance with the principle of equity and the principle of-Common But Differentiated Responsibilities of the Parties (CBDR),” Indian submission says.

New Delhi, however, has chosen to pursue a line that suggests that the sole responsibility of increasing ambition in tackling emissions up to 2020 lies with developed countries.

“The gap between the mitigation pledges until 2020 and emissions pathways consistent with achieving the 2°C goal and the question of ambition in the time frame of 2012-2020 under the Durban Platform relates to the commitments of Annex I Parties who have an obligation to take deep and ambitious emission reduction targets consistent with science and the principles of equity and CBDR.”

The Indian submission postpones discussions on increased efforts to tackle the emission issue by developing countries till the submission of the IPCC’s fifth assessment report in 2013-14, the review of the working of the Convention in 2015, and the completion of the negotiations on the Bali Track (or long term co-operative action) of the Convention.

This position on increasing ambition is unlikely to win New Delhi any allies. The issue of raising the level of ambitions to bridge the emission gap was put on the table at Durban by the Alliance of Small Island States and the least developed countries, which form the bulk of the developing country bloc, G-77 and China. India’s reluctance to engage on this issue could present a problem. The Convention clearly puts the responsibility of absolute emission reduction on the developed countries.

At the same time, it calls on developing countries to take measures to slow down the growth of emissions (these would be in the nature of relative cuts or emission intensity of the economy) with domestic resources or with financial and technological assistance from developed countries. Since these efforts should not detract from the primary aim of poverty reduction and development, the developing countries take voluntary measures.

Clearly, while not obligated to take action, developing countries are not exempt from making efforts to reduce emissions. Studies show that even if developed countries reduce their emissions by 40% (as India has called for in the past and now again), restricting global temperature rise to 2 degrees will not be possible if the entire spectrum of developing countries don’t ensure a 30% deviation in their growth of emissions.

New Delhi’s position is somewhat puzzling, especially, since it pledged to reduce emission intensity by 20% to 25% by 2020. This was India’s voluntary effort pledged at Copenhagen and then at Cancun. However, there is a lack of clarity on the issue as the Indian submission states that it can meet its Copenhagen/Cancun pledge “on provision of support and enablement in terms of finance and technology”.

However, India is yet to submit its nationally appropriate mitigation action, which would enable access to finance.

With the Bali Track of negotiations coming to an end in December, it will need to address the question of how the unresolved issues can be incorporated in the designing of the Durban Platform framework. And one of the main issue is a proposal on equity. India has said that it will elaborate on these aspects in its next submission, which is due on April 16.

Economic Times of India, 6 March 2012