India capitulates at Cancun, betrays its poor; agrees to a weak and ineffective text that paves the way for ineffective emission reduction targets for the developed countries and scrapping of the Kyoto protocol.

Cancun, December 10, 2010: At about 5.00 pm Mexico time today, a text of an agreement for the Ad-Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA) made its appearance at the Moon Palace Hotel, the venue of the 16th Conference of Parties. For India and its millions of poor, this text can only be termed as a betrayal.

The text, which now seems to have been unanimously agreed upon, is an extremely weak document, which sets the stage for an end to Kyoto Protocol. It also operationalises the Copenhagen Accord and removes the distinctions between developed and developing countries – something that Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has been consistently warning about.  

Reading between the lines

  • While the legally binding nature of the agreement has been kept in abeyance till the next meeting in Durban in December 2011, the agreement has established a different legal framework through the use of MRV/ICA regimes. These, says CSE, will allow for domestic actions, even if unsupported by finance or technology, to be internationally verified.

  • Worse, the agreement is bad for climate change action. There is no global emission reduction target for 2050; nor is there a target for peaking year. No targets have been set for emissions reduction for developed countries. 

  • There is no mention of equitable access to carbon space instead a weak and meaningless language of ‘equitable access to sustainable development’ has been inserted, which will compromise India’s right to development. 

  • The agreement allows countries to voluntarily pledge what they want to do to reduce their emissions, which will mean that industrialised countries can do little or even nothing and get away. 

  • The emission reduction pledges made by all countries in Copenhagen Accord is way below the requirements of keeping the global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius. It will put the world on course for a 3 degree C or more increase in temperature, which will be devastating for the poorest and most vulnerable. 
  • There are clear indications that the agreement will now allow for the world to scrap the Kyoto Protocol. Furthermore, the agreement on the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol has not been finalised. There is virtually no movement on this matter, even as the developing world has compromised on its right to growth. 

  • The agreement therefore proposes creation of a single instrument for both developed and developing countries, removing the distinction between the two, giving space for junking the historical responsibility of developed countries. 

India gets nothing in return

  • India gives-in to developed country pressure by agreeing to international verification and reporting of its domestic actions but gets nothing in return on emissions reduction targets for the developed country, on second commitment period for the Kyoto protocol, assured finance or technology.       

  • The technology mechanism established under the agreement is facilitative in nature and does not address the issue of IPR and therefore access of affordable mitigation and adaptation technologies to the developing countries. 

  • The Fast Start Finance, on which the developed countries have reneged so far, has been embedded in the agreement but whether it will be in the form of grants or loans have not been clarified. Also no accountability mechanism have been established to ensure that developed country do not renege again on their commitments. 

In other words, while India has succumbed to the pressure to agree to a universal instrument, it has failed abysmally to get the more powerful countries to agree to the basic actions to combat climate change. CSE sees this as a sign of a weak and subservient India, keen to be part of a global alliance of polluters at the cost of its poor people. We know that we are most vulnerable to climate change. We needed our government to come back from Cancun with the promise of an effective agreement, which would promise hard emission reduction cuts from the already industrialised and provide the necessary funds and technology for adaptation and mitigation. Instead, all we have succeeded in is to give away concessions from our side, without getting anything in return.