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US Confidential Note Sets Out Obama’s Strategy For Paris Climate Talks

Nitin Sethi, Business Standard

US wants differentiation between developed and developing countries scrapped. But India will not accept the change.

Days ahead of the launch of the Paris talks, the US has confidentially informed select countries of what it believes the important features of the Paris climate change agreement.

In a ‘non-paper’ shared with select countries, the US has said it wants the successive round of pledges under the proposed Paris agreement to be determined independently by each country and not through a process of international negotiation.

It has said that the wall of differentiation between developed and developing countries should be done away with consequently doing away with any notion of historical responsibility. Along with it, it wants developing countries to also contribute to the climate funds in future and not just the developed countries as is required for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, under which the Paris agreement is being stitched.

In the ‘non-paper’ the US has also informed select countries that it wants the long-term goal of the Paris agreement to be defined as the “collectively aiming to achieve climate neutrality over the course of this century” – a controversial term which countries such as Indian have opposed.

Business Standard reviewed the confidential non-paper shared by the US administration with select countries. Queries on the contents of the paper were sent to the office of the US special envoy on climate change Todd Stern and the country’s communication team for the Paris meet. Replies were not received by the time of going to publication. If received later they would be appended to the story online.

The document, in one part, reads, “What is expected from countries should be differentiated to capture their varying circumstances and capabilities today and in the future, not based on outdated categories (“Annex 1/non-Annex 1″ or “developed/developing”) created in 1992.”

At the moment the UN convention distributes the burden of emission reduction and other actions based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, respective capabilities and national circumstances. Through this the historical responsibility of developed countries gets acknowledged in causing climate change through their accumulated emissions.

But the US, in its non-paper, has ignored these principles and wants the Paris agreement to focus only on existing economic capabilities of countries and their existing circumstances. India has strongly opposed this earlier.

Ajay Mathur, member of the Prime Minister’s council on climate change, in an interview to the Business Standard had said, “The differentiation was done for a very specific purpose. It was to make differentiation between those who are responsible for historic emissions and those who are not. That calculus and those numbers haven’t really changed. We don’t see why that concept should be swept under the carpet.”

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