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Will Durban Save Kyoto Protocol or will Rio have to step in?

Written By Krishna on Sunday, November 27, 2011 | 5:55 AM

Reacting strongly to the article "The planet has no plan B" by John Ashton, U.K. Foreign Office's special representative for climate change, India's former Ambassador to the UN, Nirupam Sen denounced the reference to "Nato's success in Libya" in the climate debate at the release of Praful Bidwai's book,The Politics of Climate Change and the Global Crisis: Mortgaging our Future on November 25 at India International Centre.

Seventeenth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 17) to United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that was adopted in 1992 is all set to commence from 28 November to 9 December 2011 in Durban, South Africa for advancing UNFCCC's objectives, the implementation of the Convention and the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, an amendment to UNFCCC as well as the Bali Action Plan on structured negotiation on the post-2012 framework for the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol agreed at COP 13 in 2007, and the controversial Cancun Agreements, reached at COP 16 in December, 2010 amid contentious role of BASIC countries (Brazil, South Africa, India and China). From 2005 onwards meeting of Kyoto Protocol and UNFCCC happen together.


Ahead of the Durban meeting, ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) heard and exchanged views on expectations from COP17 with Mark Reynhardt, Counsellor, High Commission of the Republic of South Africa and Mr. Robert Ferres- First Secretary, Embassy of the Phillipines, Robert Donkers is Minister Counsellor for Environment at the Delegation of the European Union to India who were present at a discussion in India International Centre, New Delhi along with officials from other embassies on November 24.


Robert Donkers defended carbon trade and Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) while admitting that there is scope of improvement but it is facing resistance from India. India is making second commitment period a pre-condition to discuss improvement proposals like bundling of projects to reduce consultants costs. When Kyoto Protocol was negotiated EU was opposed to CDM because we were afraid that USA will pay itself out. India does not want to talk to us. It is fine we understand that because we are grown ups. We would prefer new legally binding treaty because of USA. Negotiations are about what's is feasible, he argued.


TWA argued that carbon trade has failed. CDM stands exposed through wikileaks. Delhi's waste to energy project in Okhla demonstrates that CDM stands for Collateral Damage Mechanism. It must be abandoned in the second commitment period. It argued that it is a case of history repeating itself. CDM was included in Kyoto Protocol to appease USA, which was arguing that 'American life style is non-negotiable' thereby diluting its sincere intent despite which USA chose not to be part of it. Now EU is abandoning the Protocol for the same USA saying "we would not do striptease for US but act to accommodate it. TWA feels that this is nothing short of striptease. When asked about whether carbon trade was part of India-EU free trade negotiations, Bonkers appeared evasive. The fact remains Government of India's position at Cancun saying, “Equity is key to the climate change negotiations. In the context of the 2 deg C global goal, the issue of equitable access becomes even more important. The phrase equitable access is not the right to pollute, but the right to sustainable development" does not reveal the need for common but differentiated responsibility within the country as well.

Having taken note of 4 page Proposal by Government of India for inclusion of additional agenda items in the provisional agenda of CoP-17, Joint Submission by G-77 & China on Shared Vision, Joint statement issued at the conclusion of the seventh basic ministerial meeting on climate change in Durban on May 29, 2011 and Joint Statement issued at the Conclusion of the Ninth BASIC Ministerial Meeting on Climate Change on 1 November 2011 in Beijing, China, TWA holds that unlike EU which has wedded itself to adopting "what is feasible", BASIC should act based on scientific facts and adopt a position which is "logically necessary" at COP17.

Echoing Donkers, Ashton argued, "When there is no alternative, realism lies in expanding the limits of the possible, not in nourishing the delusion that something else might help." Critiquing this approach, Dr Rohan D'Souza of the Centre for Studies in Science Policy, Jawaharlal Nehru University cited Yann Martel's novel Life of Pi wherein animals of zoos choose to remain in it because they do not have any alternative vision legitimizing the status quo of the Zoo. This "expanding the limits of the possible" is akin to "it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place" referred to in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass involving the Red Queen, a representation of a Queen in chess, and Alice constantly running but remaining in the same spot.

The Indian proposal on ‘Accelerated access to critical mitigation and adaptation technologies and related intellectual property rights’, ‘Equitable access to sustainable development’, 'Review of implementation of commitments and other provisions of the Convention’ and ‘Unilateral trade measures’ falls in the domain of what is necessary.


It is known now that pursuant to National Action Plan on Climate Change, 18 out of 28 states have prepared draft state action plan on climate change. These have been prepared without people's participation. It also emerged that carbon trade has failed. The same fate awaits REDD-Plus. It became clear that Government of India's position is at variance with the position of people's movements. India's position has been undergoing changes, TWA hopes that BASIC countries will represent and take along 132 countries of the G-77 group in the same way as it did on two occasions in the UN Security Council (UNSC) when attempts were made to treat climate crisis as a national security issue by categorically stating that the right forum for discussing it is UNFCCC and UNEP and not UNSC. In such a backdrop, Ashton's reference to NATO's strike in Libya is mischievous.


Members of Indian Parliament including Basudeb Acharia, Chairman, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture, Pradeep Tamta of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Environment, Forests, Science & Technology and Anil Dave, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Water Resources expressed grave concerns about environmental crises engulfing communities. The presence of concerned government officials like J.M. Mauskar, R.R. Rashmi and Dr. Subodh K. Sharma who handles climate change including CDM & UNFCCC issues would have been quite useful.


UNFCCC has come a long way since 1995 when the first conference of parties (COP1) happened in Berlin, Germany and COP 3 in December 1997 in Kyoto, Japan that outlined the greenhouse gas emissions reduction obligation for Annex I countries including ost industrialized countries and some central European economies in transition who agreed to legally binding reductions in greenhouse gas emissions of an average of 6 to 8% below 1990 levels between the years 2008–2012, defined as the first emissions budget period. USA was required to reduce its total emissions to an average of 7% below 1990 levels but the US Congress did not ratify the treaty after Bill Clinton signed it. Whatever may be the outcome of the Durban deliberations, like USA, Government of India too should get its position ratified by the Indian Parliament.


TWA hopes that if nothing emerges at Durban, which is quite likely, the occasion of Rio+20, to mark the 20th anniversary of the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil during June 4-6, 2012 can be used to re-affirm the commitment to UNFCCC, Kyoto Protocol and Bali Action Plan. It was at Rio that UNFCCC took birth. Isn't there a merit in making imaginative and alternative efforts to rejuvenate Kyoto Protocol for the second commitment period post Durban?



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