South Asian countries call for legally binding climate deal by 2015

South Asian countries – including India, Pakistan and Bangladesh - call for a legally binding global climate deal by 2015 ahead of the UN climate talks in Peru

South Asian countries called on global leaders to commit to a legally binding agreement by 2015, stating that South Asia has been seriously affected by the impacts of climate change.

The call was made at the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit held in Kathmandu this week.  

In a thirty five-point declaration issued at the summit, the countries underlined climate change as a serious threat for the region. “There is the urgency for the global community to arrive at a Protocol, another legal instrument, or an agreed outcome with legal force applicable to all by the end of 2015,” the SAARC declaration states.

The regional group is made up of eight member countries – Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan . China is keen to become a member, but so far has been rebuffed by India. The country currently holds “observer status” along with Myanmar.

The call for a global agreement comes a week before the United Nations climate summit begins in the Peruvian capital of Lima, an event which will be crucial in determining the nature of the global agreement decided next year in Paris. South Asian countries, who belong to the developing and least developed countries groups under the UN negotiations, have reiterated this position for years.

Some commentators believe the explicit mention of the UN negotiations in the SAARC declaration is significant, suggesting these countries will not be willing to change their stance as intense debate between developed and developing country heats up ahead of the meeting in Peru.  “The agreement aimed for Paris should be based on the principles of Common but Differentiated Responsibility and Respective Capabilities and Equity under the UNFCCC,” mentioned the declaration.

The governments also agreed to strengthen cooperation on disaster prevention and climate change by establishing a disaster and environment centre by merging existing four regional centers in Maldives, Bangladesh, Bhutan and India. “We aim to work effectively on environment and disasters in South Asia by establishing this centre, the location of which will be decided later,” said Nepal’s prime minister Koirala.