It was probably the greatest political show on earth ever but if the idea was to facilitate an agreement on climate change, inspire the negotiators to sort out the intractable differences, then Monday’s congregation of world leaders in Paris achieved little.
In fact, the manner in which world leaders stuck to their country positions in their brief statements, for which they had all descended upon the French capital in unprecedented numbers, the negotiators may choose to harden their positions even further.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who moved from one event to another throughout the day, spoke to the conference much later in the evening, and delivered a very strong enunciation of India’s position on climate change.
He spoke of all that India was already doing and was planning to do before stressing the principle of equity, balance, and differentiation between developed and developing countries when it came to taking action.
“Equity means that national commitments must be consistent with the carbon space nations occupy,” Modi said, “And, climate justice demands that with the little carbon space we still have, developing countries should have enough scope to grow. The principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities must remain the bedrock of our collective enterprise across all areas – mitigation, adaptation and means for implementation. Anything else would be morally wrong,” he added.
Modi touched upon almost every issue dear to India, including access to adequate finance and low-cost technology for the developing countries.
“Developed countries must fulfill their responsibility to make clean energy available, affordable and accessible to all in the developing world. This is in our collective interest. So, we look to the developed countries to mobilize US$ 100 billion annually by 2020 for mitigation and adaptation in the developing countries. They must fulfill their commitment in a credible, transparent and meaningful manner,” he told the conference.
Modi was one of many leaders who expressed his country’s negotiating position. Before him, US President Barack Obama, Chinese President Xi Jinping, French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin, South African President Jacob Zuma, and almost everyone else made statements that clearly reflected the
positions of their respective countries or groups.
Hollande said the “agreement must be universal, differentiated and binding” — echoing the stand of the European Union, something that the United States has strong disagreements with. The US does not want a legally-binding agreement, and Obama’s statement had no reference to the legally-binding nature of the agreement. However, Obama did acknowledge his country’s historical responsibility in creating the problem of climate change.
Chinese President Xi Jinping also took the position of the developing countries and talked about finance and technology transfers. So did Zuma who stressed the need to focus on adaptation issues as well not just emission reduction targets, another point that is repeatedly made by the developing countries at these negotiations.
With the leaders having left the arena, the negotiators will resume their work on finalising an agreement. Several contentious issues remain to be thrashed out, and Paris is unlikely to see a consensus emerge on each one of them. Key to the success of Paris would depend on whether the countries are able to finalise some mechanism to ensure the flow of money and technology from the developed to the developing countries.
These two issues are likely to see the most protracted negotiations here.
The situation is unlikely to be any different on Tuesday than it was on Sunday before the world leaders flew into Paris to lend their political weight to the negotiations. However, if Paris succeeds in delivering an agreement, it would not be because of the political leaders but only because the bar for success has been pushed very low over the last few years.