Emerging economies up climate pressure on rich nations

Four nations led by China pledged on Sunday to meet an end-month deadline to submit action plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions and challenged rich countries to come up with funding to help fight global warming.

Environment ministers and envoys from Brazil, South Africa, India and China, the so-called BASIC countries, met in New Delhi in a show of unity by countries whose greenhouse gas emissions are among the fastest rising in the world. 

The four countries confirmed they will disclose the voluntary steps they will take to help reduce global warming by the 31 January deadline set during negotiations in Copenhagen, India’s environment minister said after talks between the four nations in New Delhi yesterday (24 January).

The bloc of four was key to brokering a political agreement at the Copenhagen talks in December and its meeting in India was designed in part to put pressure on richer nations to make good on funding commitments. 

“We have sent a very powerful symbol to the world of our intentions,” Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said at a joint press conference after seven hours of talks. 

The group discussed setting up a climate fund to help nations most vulnerable to the impact of global warming, which it said would act as a wake-up call for wealthier countries to meet their pledges on financial assistance and give $10 billion in 2010. 

Rich countries have pledged $30 billion in climate change funding for the 2010-12 period and set a goal of $100 billion by 2020, far less than what developing countries had wanted. 

The group in New Delhi said releasing $10 billion this year would send a signal of the rich countries’ commitment. The four said they were in talks to set up an independent fund for the same purpose, but gave no timeline or figure. 

“When we say we will be reinforcing technical support as well as funds to the most vulnerable countries, we are giving a slap in the face to the rich countries,” Brazil’s Environment Minister Carlos Minc said through a translator. 

The non-binding accord worked out at the Copenhagen climate summit was described by many as a failure because it fell short of the conference’s original goal of a more ambitious commitment to prevent more heatwaves, droughts and crop failures. 

China is the world’s top CO2 emitter, while India is number four. China was blamed by many countries at Copenhagen for obstructing a tougher deal and has refused to submit to outside scrutiny of its plans to brake greenhouse gas emissions. 

China has pledged to cut the amount of carbon dioxide produced for each unit of economic growth by 40-45% by 2020, compared with 2005 levels. For India, that figure is up to 25% by 2020 from 2005 levels. 

Xie Zhenhua, deputy head of the powerful National Development and Reform Commission, said the world needed to take immediate action to fight climate change. 

But in the wake of a controversial exaggeration by the UN climate panel on the threat posed by global warming to the Himalayan glaciers, he called for an “open attitude” to climate science.

Sarkozy urges monthly ministerial meetings ahead of Mexico

On 22 January, French President Nicolas Sarkozy called for monthly meetings of 28 nations to better prepare for November’s climate conference in Mexico.

“France would like regular monthly meetings of the Group of 28 to be held from March in New York or in Bonn at the ministerial or sherpa level to flesh out proposals […] and we can then arrive in Cancun with an efficiently-prepared agenda,” he said in a New Year address to the diplomatic corps in Paris.

“It would be wise to follow double negotiations: those of the 192 [nations], because they alone can involve the entire international community, and that of the G28 which has demonstrated its efficiency,” he added.

(EURACTIV with Reuters.)

In December, world leaders delivered an agreement in Copenhagen that left Europeans disappointed as it failed to commit rich and poor countries to any greenhouse gas emission reductions. 

The face-saving deal, dubbed the 'Copenhagen Accord external  ', failed to produce a binding agreement to tackle climate change, which Europe had said it expected prior to the opening of the UN conference. 

The resulting text, agreed in the early morning of Saturday 19 December after hours of wrangling, states that deep cuts in global emissions "will be required" and that countries will take action to maintain the global temperature increase below 2°C. 

The deal sets an end-January 2010 deadline for all nations to submit plans for curbing emissions to the United Nations. A separate text proposes an end-2010 deadline for reporting back, but dropped plans to insist on a legally-binding treaty.

The next scheduled UN meeting is not until late May in Germany, with another in late November in Mexico, but many officials say more will be needed.

  • 29 Nov.-10 Dec. 2010: UN climate conference in Mexico.

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