December 10, 2009

Politics at Play-II: Update on COP15 developments for 09 Dec 2009

There was a buzz of something impending in the air at the Bella Centre as Todd Stern, the US Chief Negotiator arrived. Not much to mince words, he fired a broadside at China, “We expect China to make considerable cuts in its carbon emissions despite being a developing country”. Taking a swipe at developing countries, he made a pointed reference that the current climate negotiation is not about morality; it’s about mathematics! Further, China will also not be eligible for any assistance from the US on climate mitigation and adaptation. Stern feels that a country sitting on trillions of dollars ought to fend for itself. How fundamental can things get, one wonders.

The forceful insistence on China to make emission cuts did not come as much of a surprise to most since India seems to have already played into the US’ hands by floating a timid version of an agreement at the G77+China meeting. One might recall the leaked letter of Jairam Ramesh a month back where he had made a similar proposition. The proverbial dots are thus now being joined at Copenhagen.

One would recall a similar power play during the WTO mini-ministerial at Geneva in 2008. The negotiations supposedly collapsed on the issue of Special Safeguard Measures and India was singled out as the deal-breaker. This was despite the fact that India had already conceded to the US’s demands on SSM. The talks collapsed because the US did not want to face the next issue (its cotton subsidies) which would have anyways brought down the talks.

This is exactly what seems like being re-enacted at Copenhagen on the Climate negotiations. The US is unwilling to bring down its emissions despite using the right vocabulary by President Obama. This time round, it seems China’s turn to be painted the deal breaker. As of now, Xie Zienhua, China's chief negotiator, has seemingly ignored Stern’s outburst and has indicated that he will wait for President Obama to take a final call on the issue when he gets to Copenhagen.

Meanwhile, the leaked Danish text is causing considerable embarrassment to the UN what with the Climate Chief Yvo de Boer issuing a weak defense: “it is an informal paper ahead of the conference given to a number of people for the purposes of consultations”. The G77 sure is not buying any of this and the slam game is on!

Meanwhile, a summit of EU leaders will be held on 10-11 December at Brussels. Informal talks with a delegate indicate that the EU will remain steadfast on immediate action on the climate front by 2010 although its commitments will be conditional on what others place on the table. It is also likely that the EU will seek a six month roadmap after COP 15 is over before a final deal is agreed upon - this is a fresh development.

Amidst all this, there has been not a word coming from the Indian team. Indian delegates, including the Chief Negotiator Shyam Saran, have not held a single Press Conference till date. There are speculations rife about Saran's abrupt trip back to New Delhi. One hopes that the Delegation speaks to the Press and Indian CSO representatives once Saran rejoins the negotiations the day after tomorrow, ostensibly with a fresh brief in light of the complete goof up on the G77+China coalition.
(By Bhaskar Goswami)


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