G20 communique: India sat on final nod to Paris climate deal to get back at China over NSG

According to a source familiar with the negotiations, the call was taken at the highest level and conveyed to the negotiators.

Written by P Vaidyanathan Iyer | New Delhi | Updated: September 10, 2016 9:02 am
g20, narendra modi, pm modi, modi xi jinping, g20, g 20 summit, paris deal, paris climate pact, nsg, china india, china nsg, china india nsg, paris agreement, nuclear suppliers group, nuclear deal, nuclear fight, zero draft, nsg membership, barack obama. modi obama, indian express news, india news, nsg deal news, aseam summit, modi asean summit, latest news Prime Minister Modi with Chinese President Xi Jinping, in Hangzhou on September 4. Reuters photo

India’s decision to not commit itself to ratifying the Paris Agreement by December 2016 in the G20 communique in Hangzhou was meant to be a snub to summit host China for having blocked India’s entry into the elite Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) in June this year.

According to a source familiar with the negotiations, the call was taken at the highest level and conveyed to the negotiators. “The December 2016 deadline for ratifying the Paris Agreement was mentioned in the zero draft of the G20 communiqué, but India was opposed to it from the beginning,” the source said.

The zero draft is the first draft of the communiqué prepared and circulated by the Presidency (the country hosting the G20 Summit, China this year) with sherpas then editing and re-editing the text on real-time basis after reviewing the positions of other countries.

Another source said a substantial part of the 40 hours of negotiations by sherpas was spent on climate change issues, including a proposal to put an end to fossil fuel subsidies. “Besides the December 2016 deadline for ratifying the Paris Agreement, the zero draft also put a 2025 deadline to end fossil fuel subsidies,” the source said.

“India ab initio rejected the 2025 deadline for ending fossil fuel subsidies stating its opposition during the energy ministers’ meeting earlier; later, a modified draft mentioned a ‘date certain’ instead of a specific year; India rejected this as well,” said the source. “In fact, to India’s surprise, the Russian sherpa separately tried to convince the Indian side on a ‘date certain’ if not 2025,” the source added.

India had already made up its mind to be defiant even before the advance team made it to Hangzhou. “We can, if it is really required and urgent, expedite and complete the domestic procedures required to ratify the Paris Agreement in time before December-end 2016. Yes, this will require hard work, but is not undoable. But clearly, India did not want the credit for the climate breakthrough to accrue to China, which was eager to announce a spectacular outcome at the end of the summit in Hangzhou,” the source said. Turkey too was on India’s side on the climate change issue and articulated its position well.

There was overt pressure on New Delhi from China and the United States too, both of which submitted the documents ratifying the Paris Agreement to UN Secretary-General Ban ki Moon ahead of the G20 Leaders Summit on September 4-5.

A source who did not wish to be named also said India was keeping the option of ratifying it by December-end, since there is a chance of a special plenary of the 48-member NSG before the year ends. “The US has assured India of its full support for NSG membership,” the source said.

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi met US President Barack Obama in Vientiane on Thursday on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit, a White House official said Modi pledged to formally join the Paris Agreement this year itself. But MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup quickly clarified, “Government has made no decision as yet on ratifying the Paris Agreement. Domestic processes in this regard are still underway. A decision will be taken only when they are completed.”