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INTERVIEW - India hits out at attempt to cast Kyoto aside

BANGKOK (Reuters) - India expressed alarm on Thursday over the lack of progress and direction of U.N. climate talks and condemned moves by rich nations to try to replace the existing Kyoto Protocol with a weaker agreement.

Smokes pours out of a brick kiln factory in Malancha 50km south of Kolkata, in this February 10, 2006 file photo. India expressed alarm on Thursday over the lack of progress and direction of U.N. climate talks and condemned moves by rich nations to try to replace the existing Kyoto Protocol with a weaker agreement. REUTERS/Jayanta Shaw/Files

Shyam Saran, India’s special envoy for climate change, said developed nations were trying to craft a pact that contained none of Kyoto’s steps to enforce hard emissions reduction targets for rich countries.

“We are not happy with the pace of the negotiation and in fact we are concerned that instead of moving forward on the issues that are very critical, we seem to be moving in the reverse,” Saran told Reuters on the sidelines of climate talks in Bangkok.

“Instead of moving towards a much higher degree of implementation and commitment, what are we trying to do? We are trying to reduce everything to the lowest common denominator,” he added in a swipe at efforts to try to accommodate the United States in a new climate pact. Washington never ratified Kyoto.

Delegates from about 180 nations are meeting in the Thai capital trying to narrow differences on the shape of a pact to replace Kyoto that broadens the fight against climate change.

Trying to find a formula that brings in big developing nations such as India, the world’s fourth-largest carbon emitter, and top emitter China, is crucial.

The United Nations has set a December deadline for agreement on a new climate framework in Copenhagen but says time is short.

A key issue is how to broaden Kyoto from 2013 after its first phase ends. Kyoto binds 37 industrialised countries, except the United States, to emissions targets between 2008-12, while developing nations are exempted from setting economy-wide targets under U.N. agreements.

They say it is unfair for them to take on targets for the moment because that would hurt their economies and that rich nations are responsible for most of the greenhouse gas pollution in the atmosphere.

FRUSTRATION

India and many other developing nations have expressed frustration over efforts by the European Union, the United States and other rich nations to replace Kyoto, with one idea being to take parts of the present pact and place them in a new deal.

The United States wants an agreement based on legally binding domestic action but not a pact that would contain legally enforceable steps to ensure emissions reduction targets are met, an idea that worries poorer nations.

“What has happened is that at this particular meeting we have a proposal that essentially we should put aside the Kyoto Protocol,” Saran said.

“This is something that causes great concern to all of us because at this late stage, if you’re going to come up with such a major change in the nature of the negotiations, then how do you take this process forward?”

Australia has proposed either an expanded Kyoto or a new agreement based on “national schedules” that allows all nations to choose flexible but legally binding steps to cut emissions based on their nation circumstances.

The United States wants a system in which all nations regularly report their emissions reduction programmes and allow them to be subject to review.

Developing nations fear the step is a way to treat rich and poor nations alike and that such a move could threaten the outcome of the Copenhagen talks.

“You cannot blur the distinction between developed and developing countries,” Saran said.

“We cannot be expected that for the sake of just declaring victory at Copenhagen we will end up with a deal which severely compromises our developmental prospects.”

Editing by Nick Macfie

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