COP21, Day 5: Rich vs Poor (Deadlock Coming Soon)

  • Date: 04/12/15
  • Nitin Sethi, Business Standard

A full blown argument between the developed and developing countries over the application of principle of common but differentiated responsibilities to the Paris agreement rocked the summit as it drew closer to the end of the first week of negotiations.

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With developed countries blocking any proposal to operationalize the principle in the Paris agreement through the entire week, developing countries came out with scathing comments in public. The principle of differentiation is enshrined in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and distinguishes between obligations of the rich countries, based on their historical responsibility in causing climate change, and the less onerous obligations of the developing world. All countries had previously agreed that the Paris agreement would be stitched under the UN Convention, which implied following its provisions and principles. But, at Paris the developed countries have steadfastly pushed to do away with differentiation.

Speaking for the Like Minded Developing Countries, which includes India and China, Gurdial Singh NIjar of Malaysia said, “You (the developed countries) grew to this level of prosperity because you burnt fossil fuel at an unabated rate. You created that situation which has created this problem for us. You created the problem and now you say that we want you to share—on an equal basis—the responsibility.”

“You signed on the Convention (UNFCCC). It was in 1992. You acknowledged historical responsibility. You acknowledged differentiation. You acknowledged a way out of the situation, but now you are resiling from your obligations. You assumed legally binding obligations, which you have not fulfilled.”

The previous four days had seen the developed countries block any proposal on implementing differentiation through different elements of the proposed Paris agreement. These elements of the agreement are about reducing emissions, adapting to inevitable climate change and providing what is termed in climate jargon as means of implementation – technology, finance and capacity building.

“You are trying to freeze the development pace of developing countries. This is the message we want to give you. We don’t want to persuade you. You won’t be persuaded. You talk of countries like India, China. They are big countries. Even if they add a little, it will increase a lot. Do people stop industrialization that meets the needs of the country? Do people stop eating?” Nijar added.

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