Climate convention generates heat and dust

India passes back the buck to industrialised nations as wranglings over the Climate Change protocol continue

By Ravi Sharma
Published: Wednesday 15 March 1995

-- (Credit: Rustam Vania)THE governments of the industrialised countries, shaky about meeting their present commitment to roll back their co2 emissions to the 1990 level, launched a 3-pronged attack in the February 17 Climate Change Convention in New York. The strategy was meant to loft the ball for such reductions to newly-industrialised countries like India, China and South Korea.

The national reports submitted by the industrialised nations to the United Nations secretariat on the Framework Convention on Climate Change divulge that, except for Germany, every other country is puffing up its co2 emissions at an average rate of 12 per cent a year, putting paid to the 1990 threshold.

There was lots of political sleaze evident at the Convention, which recommended courses of action to be considered at the March 27 conference of signatory countries. They refused to negotiate an emission-reducing protocol which let the newly-industrialised countries off the hook. Second, the industrialised countries wanted a Joint Implementation (ji) agreement that would ensure them credits in terms of carbon emissions for every dollar they spent in the developing countries helping the latter reduce co2 emissions. It's a cunning ploy to buy credits dirt cheap without either honouring their commitments abroad or meeting their own quota. Third, they "asked" the World Bank and other multilateral banks not to support any developing world project producing emissions.

Bobbing amid this battle was the draft protocol proposal by the Association of Small Island States (aosis) that are threatened by an inexorable rise in sea level. The draft protocol asked industrialised countries to reduce their co2 emissions by 20 per cent by ad 2005. Germany welcomed the aosis proposal, tempering its support by asking the newly-industrialised countries to sign on the dotted line. China went red in the face, and together with South Korea, India and some others, persuaded the g-77 countries, of which aosis is a part, to give the proposed protocol the bum's rush.

Realising that his country was being tarred as the agent provocateur, India's chief negotiator K K Bakshi, of the ministry of environment and forests, stated his support for the aosis protocol. But he also clarified that India's opposition to Germany's precondition questioned the motive behind the convention. Following this rebellion, many African and Latin American countries broke with the g-77 and helped India return the protocol to sender.

Environmental groups like the Environmental Defence Fund of usa and the Greenpeace International had accused India and China for thwarting hopes for any agreement to negotiate a protocol for co2 emission reduction. They revived their hopes again and lobbied with industrialised countries for establishing targets and timetables for negotiations. These groups received support from Bert Bolin, chairperson of the scientific body attached tothe convention. He called for emission cuts well over 60 per cent of the 1990 levels.

In the second attempt by industrialised countries, the Chinese ambassador attempted to get the g-77 countries to support his proposal to not reject outright the ji concept, but to make it conditional. But China faced tough opposition from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait which know that reduced oil consumption means plummeting oil prices. Later, India and Malayasia joined the opposition, leading to a stalemate within the g-77.

The European Community countries made a new proposal agreeing to certain developing countries demands: supporting a pilot phase of ji without any credits, and not using ji to stabilise their co2 emissions, only to reduce it. However, the usa greedily demanded credits even in the pilot phase. There is some suspicion that the usa doesn't give a hoot for a multilateral ji agreement, knowing full well that some developing countries which publicly oppose it are actually willing to snivel for bilateral deals with the USA.

The stage is now set for developing nations' ministers' meet in Berlin on March 27 to ensure industrialised countries' governments agree to repair their own backyard. Host Germany, holding its first major un conference, is loosening its purse strings generously. It isinviting several thousand governmental and non-governmental delegates, including high-profile politicians like the us vice-president Al Gore.

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