India, China warn developed countries against attempts at ‘backsliding

India, China warn developed countries against attempts at ‘backsliding

At a press conference here, their first at the Katowice meeting, the four countries warned that "backsliding" on the principles agreed to in the Paris Agreement would not be accepted.

People walk in front of the venue of the COP24 UN Climate Change Conference 2018 in Katowice, Poland. (Source: Reuters)

India, China, Brazil and South Africa, together known as the BASIC group of countries, and a powerful negotiating bloc, today said that while negotiating the rulebook of the Paris Agreement, there were attempts by the developed countries to go back on the principles already agreed to in that agreement.

At a press conference here, their first at the Katowice meeting, the four countries warned that “backsliding” on the principles agreed to in the Paris Agreement would not be accepted.

“What has raised the alarm bells are some of the comments made in the negotiating rooms that seem to push for equal treatment (of developed and developing countries) instead of differentiated treatment (as mandated for these negotiations). That would represent a danger, a threat to the (negotiating) process because it (equal treatment) cannot possibly be, since we know that there is so much unevenness and capacity differences and resource differences between different countries,” South African tourism minister Derek Honekom, who is leading his country’s delegation here, said.

“If we go in that direction, that would be backsliding. When we talk about backsliding, we are concerned that there could be backsliding and we are determined to ensure that there is no backsliding,” Honekom said.


China’s Special Representative for Climate Change Affairs, Xie Zhenhua said there was no way countries could be asked to go back on the provisions enshrined in the Paris Agreement.

“When we talk about backsliding, it means that the principles and provisions mentioned in the Paris Agreement must not be compromised. We cannot go back on those principles,” Xie said.

He refused to provide specific details of such attempts, or exactly which countries were engaging in this. “We have all been in these negotiations for very long. We can all evaluate what backsliding is, and what is not. We all know what is going forward, and what means going backward,” he said.

Additional Secretary in India’s Ministry of Environment, A K Mehta, said the developing countries, and specifically the BASIC group, was willing to show “flexibility” but would not compromise on the principles of equity and differentiated treatment.

For the last few days, some developing countries have been saying that developed countries had been trying to erase the distinction between developed and developing countries while finalising the guidelines and rules for the implementation of Paris Agreement. One place where this tussle was being played out was in the discussion over the mechanism in which countries will provide information about their climate actions.

Developing countries have been arguing that they must not be asked to provide the same level of details as the developed countries, because collecting and reporting such details requires expertise and expenditure that many amongst them did not have. Developed countries want to make the exemption for the Least Developed Countries (LDC) group, but want other developing countries, primarily those like the BASIC group, to have the same level of reporting as the developed world.

EU climate commissioner Miguel Arias Canete said that they were only going by the provisions of the Paris Agreement in asking for a single reporting mechanism for all countries.

“We fully respect what we agreed in Paris. Paris (Agreement) also points out that we have to have an enhanced transparency system, with built-in flexibility. We agree with the principle of flexibility for the countries that need it, and will ensure capacity building for them so that they join all the other countries in reporting at the same levels. But we only have to have one single and enhanced system of transparency and not two parallel systems because that is not what Paris agreed. We agree to stick to Paris, but to all the things that Paris (Agreement) says,” he said.

India raised the issue of equity and differentiation at the high-level segment of the conference as well. Mehta, the leader of Indian delegation, said the outcome from Katowice must be ” inclusive, consensus-based and an integrated package including all the components of Paris Group Work Programme to reflect the global consensus reached three years ago”.

“We all agree that the Paris Agreement is non-negotiable. Therefore, the delicate balance reached between developed and developing countries must be retained, and the principles such as equity and common but differentiated responsibility and respective capabilities must be given its due,” Mehta said.