Option in Global Stocktake draft opens possibility of including India, China in list of historical emitters of greenhouse gases

Finance and coal phase out are other red lines in text for several developing countries, say experts
Negotiations at COP28 in Dubai, UAE. Photo: UNclimatechange / Flickr
Negotiations at COP28 in Dubai, UAE. Photo: UNclimatechange / Flickr

The last draft of the Global Stocktake text has effectively proposed including India and China in the list of countries with historical responsibility for creating significant emissions. The draft was released at 3.30 pm on December 8, 2023 at the 28th Conference of Parties (COP28) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Dubai, United Arab Emirates and is presently being negotiated upon. 

Till now, only the developed countries have been listed as historical emitters. The 27-page draft has triggered hundreds of objections. 

Point number 29, option one of the draft read: 

(The text) acknowledges that the carbon budgets consistent with achieving the Paris Agreement temperature goal are now small and being rapidly depleted and expresses concern that historical cumulative net carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions between 1850-2019 amount to about four fifths of the total carbon budget for a 50 per cent probability of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

According to experts, the statement obliquely means that the countries responsible for significant emissions during the stated period may be considered historical emitters. Till now, the countries that have emitted significantly till the 1990s were considered historical emitters as per the Kyoto Protocol, which was instituted in 1997. 

Read more: COP28: Discussions over fossil fuel phaseout heat up on the Third Draft of Global Stocktake text

The Kyoto Protocol aimed to reduce the emissions of gases that contribute to global warming and called for reducing the emissions of six greenhouse gases in 41 countries plus the European Union to 5.2 per cent below 1990 levels.

“Identifying the period from 1850-2019 as the period for emission will bring India and China into the historical emitters bracket; in COP negotiation, so far the timeline considered has been 1850-1992”, Nakul Sharma, who analysed the document for civil society major Climate Action Network South Asia, told this reporter.

“This (expanding the historical emission deadline) is a deliberate effort of developed countries; they are trying to club the pre-2020 period with the historical emission, but developed countries should not forget that recent reports are clearly showing that they are responsible for 80 per cent of global emissions,” explained Harjeet Singh, head of global political strategy at Climate Action Network International.

Jan Burke, the expert who led a recent climate change performance index study that has put India in fourth place among listed countries, admitted that India’s per capita emissions are still less than half of the global average.

Finance also a red line

“There are a few other areas where there are problems and we will need a lot of negotiations to reach a common ground, especially for the developing countries,” stated Sharma.

G77 and China blocks have asked for detailed and transparent answers in agreement about why the $100 billion pledged to developing countries by developed countries almost one and a half decades ago could not be met yet, the analyst said.

“So far, the language on finance is weak and just another appeal for fund support has been made, like lip service,” stated Sharma.  

The analysis shows that while the phase-out of coal and all fossil fuels is being referred to separately under different options within point number 36 of the draft, the nomenclatures of oil and gas are being carefully avoided. 

“Somebody may claim that all fossil fuels are being referred to. But what is stopping them from specially naming oil and gas in the document when coal has been named? This is especially pertinent when the latest report shows that oil and gas together are responsible for two-thirds of global emissions rising from fossil fuels during the last year,” said a climate expert in Dubai.

“India and China are never going to accept the expansion of the historical emission period timeline; it is at best a bargain tool,” explained another.   

“Though the broad structure is there, the next needs a lot of modification and tightening,” admitted Saber Hossain Chowdhury, Bangladesh climate envoy and negotiation lead at the Dubai summit. 

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