“There was no flying off of any objects at each other,” India’s mild-mannered top negotiator at the G-20, Arvind Panagariya, vice-chairman, NITI Aayog, said with a smile after 96 hours of last-lap negotiations. The sleepless nights and tough talks were apparent as India stood with 19 countries at the G-20 on the issue of climate change, with the US alone on the other side. “These were, by far, the longest negotiations at the G-20,” an Indian negotiator, involved in such talks for the past three years, said.
The differences between the US and the other countries at the Summit were apparent in two paragraphs of the Hamburg Declaration — one outlining the American position and the other underlining the position of the others, including India’s. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was quite candid, saying she “deplored” the US government decision, under President Donald Trump, to pull out of the Paris climate agreement. “There is indeed a distinction between the two positions,” she said.
The joint statement said, “We take note of the decision of the United States of America to withdraw from the Paris agreement. The United States of America announced it will immediately cease the implementation of its current nationally-determined contribution and affirms its strong commitment to an approach that lowers emissions while supporting economic growth and improving energy security needs.”
The sentence, which was added on Saturday, said, “The United States of America will endeavor to work closely with other countries to help them access and use fossil fuels more cleanly and efficiently and help deploy renewable and other clean energy sources, given the importance of energy access and security in their nationally-determined contributions.”
Panagraiya chose not to view the US as “isolated”, citing the above statement as an explicit commitment by the US. “Nobody was isolated, there were differences. The discussions were cordial, but tough. We are all good friends, you see, this is a very cohesive group… no compromise on our own national interests,” Panagariya, who is India’s sherpa (G-20 nomenclature for negotiator), said.
He added that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had made a “huge commitment” to implement the Paris agreement.
In the end, the remaining G-19 said, “The Leaders of the other G-20 members agree that the Paris agreement is irreversible. We reiterate the importance of fulfilling the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) commitment by developed countries in providing means of implementation, including financial resources, to assist developing countries with respect to both mitigation and adaptation actions, in line with Paris outcomes.”
It added, “We reaffirm our strong commitment to the Paris agreement, moving swiftly towards its full implementation in accordance with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances.” Later, a G20 Hamburg Climate and Energy Action Plan for Growth was adopted.
Modi, while speaking at a meeting of BRICS leaders on the sidelines of the G20 Summit on Friday, had said that it was “mandatory” to implement the consensus of the Paris agreement on climate change. He had asserted that India would implement the accord in “letter and spirit”.