Asian Delegates Want ‘Political Accord’, For Now

Posted on 12 December 2009 by editor

By Athar Parvaiz

COPENHAGEN (IPS/TerraViva) Most Asian delegations to the ongoing global negotiations on climate change are insisting that a political agreement must be reached to pave the way for a legally binding treaty in the near future.

“Though we realise that it is highly unlikely to arrive at a consensus here in Copenhagen for a legally binding treaty, we are quite hopeful of a political accord,” Akira Yamada, Japan’s deputy director-general of the ministry of foreign affairs, told IPS. He said this would lay the foundation for a legally binding treaty.

Akira stressed that Japan wants a treaty that should be signed by both the United States and China, “the largest emitters of greenhouse gases,” he said.

Most negotiators from the Asia-Pacific region interviewed  by IPS said they would only settle for a political accord, believing it will ensure the adoption of a legally binding treaty. But pressure groups are insisting that a legally enforceable agreement should be the outcome of negotiations on climate change as “mere political promises would not do.”

“A politically binding treaty amounts to a love affair while the legally binding treaty is a proper wedlock. This is the simplest expression one can use to tell the difference between the two,” said Mike Shanahan, senior press officer at the London-based independent policy research centre International Institute of Environment and Development.

“No government at any time in any country can deviate from the legally binding treaty while promises through political statements are no guarantee,” he added.

“Although the speed of negotiations is very slow, we are making efforts to make a political agreement, which would later become a legal agreement,” said Kim Chan Woo, director general of South Korea’s ministry of environment.

Both least developed and developing countries want the industrialised nations to pay their “climate debt” through funding commitments and measures to reduce emissions drastically while allow the developed countries to grow.

A Danish draft of a climate change agreement, leaked to the British newspaper ‘The Guardian’ early this week, was summarily rejected by the developing countries, because it tilts the balance of mitigation obligations away from the developed nations, deemed a violation of the spirit and substance of the United Nations Framework Convention and the Bali Action Plan.

“The Danish text is an extremely dangerous text for developing countries. It robs them of an equitable and fair share of the atmospheric space,” said Lumumba Di-Aping, who chairs the largest of the negotiation blocks — G77/China, comprising more than 130 countries.

“We know that Denmark’s prime minister is desperate for a deal in Copenhagen, but it should be a balanced deal,” he said. “We hope that common sense and wisdom will prevail.”

Countries like China and India reacted to the draft in the same manner, saying it was not acceptable to them. The backlash ultimately prompted the Danish government to say that it “was a discussion paper, not a draft.”

“We feel that both the developed and developing countries should contribute to combating climate change, but the nature of contribution should be different,” South Korea’s Kim told IPS.

Indonesian delegate Angus Purnomo said his country has begun enforcing certain climate mitigation measures like reducing emissions. “But we need financial and technological assistance from developed countries. And this is the forum where we should get us a guarantee of every kind of assistance in black and white.”

“We have come here to engage very constructively in the multilateral negotiations under the United Nations system, and we are confident that there will be good outcomes, which must be consistent with the convention principles,” Vijay Sharma, a delegate from India, told IPS.

“We are having discussions on two separate tracks: one on long-term visions, Long-term Cooperative Action, under which mitigation, adaptation, finance and technology would be dealt with. And on the other hand, we are discussing how to enhance and get quantitative targets from Annex 1 [or industrialised] countries under the Kyoto Protocol.”

Less than a week is left for the negotiators to arrive at conclusions before the high-level segments of the ongoing climate talks. Developing countries, particularly the more vulnerable among them, are keen to see the foundations of a legally binding treaty here in the Danish capital.

“We are not responsible at all for the global warming. But when we look at who is suffering the most, it is the least developed countries like Bangladesh and other small island states that are going to suffer the most,” Manzoor-ul-Hanan Khan, the coordinator of the Bangladeshi delegation, said in an interview with IPS.

“Therefore we want a written assurance from the developed countries that they would make efforts to secure our future.”

“Being a poor country, we also want financial and technological assistance for mitigation and adaptation so that we achieve development without any environmental costs,” he said. “We have only one earth; there we need an effective treaty to save it.”

Purushottam Ghimire, a negotiator from Nepal, said his country is facing a major challenge, with melting glaciers threatening millions. “We are here for a consensus and concrete agreement,” he stressed.

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