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Cancun summit’s success hinges on ICA

India to push rich countries into finalising emission cut targets

Written by Amitabh Sinha | Cancun |
November 30, 2010 4:13:17 am

For the second successive year,the success of the annual climate change conference — the two-week meetings began in the Mexican resort town on Monday — seems to hinge on how much major developing countries like India are willing to let the international community scrutinize the actions they are taking to tackle the problem.

Unlike the rich countries — grouped together in Annex-I of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol — developing countries like China,India or Brazil are not required to cut down on their greenhouse gas emissions,the single biggest reason for global warming.

But in view of their rapidly increasing emissions — China is already the largest emitter in the world while India is fourth largest — there is a near unanimity that unless these countries also take steps to control the growth of their emissions,the battle with climate change cannot be won by the human race.

However,while the rich countries are bound by an international treaty to reduce their emissions by specified targets over a time period,the major developing nations are only expected to take voluntary actions that will help in reducing the global emissions over a long period. Both India and China,for example,have offered to take steps to increase their energy efficiencies.

Here is where one of the major faultlines of the climate negotiations lies. Developed countries feel that India or China is at an obvious advantage,as the purely voluntary nature of their commitments mean they cannot be held accountable. The rich countries therefore are in favour of developing a mechanism to hold these nations to their word. India or China do not want any outsider to supervise their actions and argue that they are already making a concession by taking specific actions that — unlike the Annex-I countries — they are not legally mandated to take.

In Copenhagen last year,the modest outcome in the form of Copenhagen Accord was possible only after the two sides had reached a compromise and agreed that the voluntary actions of the developing countries would be open for ‘international consultation and analysis’. That ‘international consultation and analysis’,now referred to by the acronym ICA was never defined,neither its dynamics worked out. As a result,it has continued to mean different things to different people.

Very much like last year,the ICA holds the key to any successful outcome at this year’s climate change conference at Cancun. The major stakeholders hope to reach an agreement on the framework for this ICA.

New Delhi is hoping that by being completely transparent on its voluntary actions and facilitating an agreement on ICA,it will be able to push the rich countries into finalizing their emission reduction targets for the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol,that is,for a period beyond 2012 when the first commitment period comes to an end.

Unlike Copenhagen,where the parties had been looking for a grand international agreement on climate change — something that never happened — Cancun is going to be all about taking smaller steps,like an agreement on ICA.

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