China-led group to meet ahead of climate deadline

NEW DELHI Wed Jan 13, 2010 9:39am EST

A chimney is seen between apartment blocks in central Beijing December 16, 2009. REUTERS/David Gray

A chimney is seen between apartment blocks in central Beijing December 16, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/David Gray

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Four of the world's largest and fastest-growing carbon emitters will meet in New Delhi this month ahead of a Jan 31 deadline for countries to submit their actions to fight climate change.

The meeting, to be held either on Jan 24 or 25, would be attended by the environment ministers of Brazil, South Africa, India and China -- the BASIC bloc of nations that helped broker a political accord at last month's Copenhagen climate summit.

The non-binding accord was described by many as a failure because it fell far short of the conference's original goal of a more ambitious commitment to fight global warming by all nations.

The document set a January 31 deadline for rich nations to submit economy-wide emissions targets for 2020 and for developing countries to present voluntary carbon-curbing actions.

The Copenhagen Accord left specifics to be ironed out in 2010, angering many of the poorest nations as well as some Western countries, which had hoped for a more ambitious commitment to fight climate change.

The accord did outline climate cash for poorer nations and backed a goal to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius.

But the document was widely regarded as the bare minimum outcome from the final stages of the Copenhagen summit attended by more than 100 world leaders trying to find a formula to prevent more heat waves, droughts and crop failures.

"The meeting has been called to coordinate the positions of the four countries with respect to the submission of actions and future negotiations," a senior Indian environment ministry official told Reuters.

"Beyond that, the meeting is also going to discuss any problem areas that any member country raises."

The New Delhi meeting is seen as crucial because what the four countries decide could shape a legally binding climate pact the United Nations hopes to seal at the end of the year.

Countries that support the Copenhagen Accord are supposed to add their emission reduction commitments to the schedule at the end of the document. But there is concern some countries might weaken their commitments until a new deal is agreed.

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

China is the world's top CO2 emitter, while India is number four.

CRUCIAL MEETING

Refusal by the BASIC nations to add their commitments to the schedule would likely raise questions about the validity of the accord, which was only "noted" by the Copenhagen conference and not formally adopted after several nations objected.

"If any of the BASIC countries do not submit their actions then the blame game will again start and the whole purpose of the accord which was to put a more vigorous political process in place would be defeated," said Shirish Sinha, WWF India's top climate official.

The Copenhagen conference was originally meant to agree the outlines of a broader global pact to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which binds nearly 40 rich nations to limit carbon emissions. The first phase of the existing protocol expires in 2012.

But developing countries, which want rich nations to be held to their Kyoto obligations and sign up to a second round of tougher commitments from 2013, complain developed nations want a single new accord obliging all nations to fight global warming.

The BASIC countries, while endorsing the Copenhagen Accord, oppose any single legally binding instrument that allows rich nations to dilute their climate commitments.

Poorer nations say developed economies have polluted most since the Industrial Revolution and should therefore shoulder most of the responsibility of fixing emission problems and paying poorer nations to green their economies.

Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh told a conference last week that the "main challenge now is to convert an agreement supported by 29 countries into one supported by 194 countries."

Though Indian officials ruled out any revisiting of the BASIC countries' position on the accord, some clarifications could be sought on the issue of monitoring CO2 reduction actions by developing countries. The accord says their actions would be open to "consultation and analysis."

The United States has said regular reporting and analysis of CO2 curbs by poorer nations is crucial to building trust.

"Things like who will analyze and what constitutes consultation need to be sorted out. These are definitions that have to be agreed by all the countries," another negotiator said.

(Editing by David Fogarty)

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