NEW DELHI India and China signed on Wednesday a broad agreement to cooperate in the fight against climate change and also underlined a common position on contentious talks for a tougher global climate deal.
The sweeping agreement covers cooperation for action to reduce planet-warming greenhouse gases, transfer of technology and in areas of energy efficiency and renewables, among others.
It comes weeks before a major climate meeting in Copenhagen in December the United Nations hopes will end with agreement on a broader pact to slow the pace of climate change that scientists say is caused by the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation.
Finding ways to get big developing nations to join is crucial, the United Nations says, with China now the world's top greenhouse gas emitter and India the fourth largest.
The deal is among several India is sealing with rich and developing nations as proof of its commitment toward sealing a new climate pact meant to expand or replace the existing Kyoto Protocol.
"My clear understanding is that India is in no way signing bilateral deals to undermine multi-lateral negotiations. This is an expression of interest in finding common ground," said Sunita Narain, director of the Center for Science and Environment.
Tuesday's agreement, which holds good for five years, was signed by India's Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh and Xie Zhenhua, vice minister at China's National Development and Reform Commission.
India signed a similar deal with Japan this week and has spoken of cooperation with South Korea, Brazil and the United States.
The India-China agreement said developed countries should take the lead in fighting climate change by reducing emissions and providing finance and technology to poorer nations.
It said: "...that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol are the most appropriate framework for addressing climate change."
The Kyoto Protocol, the first phase of which ends in 2012, obliges 37 rich nations to cut emissions by an average of five percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12.
A huge gap also exists between rich countries reluctant to pay the fiscal and lifestyle costs of deep cuts in their emissions, and developing states which say they must be allowed to increase emissions so their economies can catch up.
Negotiations have stumbled on lack of clarity on the amount, sources and management of any climate funds as well as the legal nature of any new post-2012 pact.
(Editing by David Fogarty)