India and China raise strong protests over COP23 agenda

In the opening session of COP23, India – supported by China – took strong umbrage that pre-2020 agenda items were ignored, most of which are the responsibility of developed countries
<p>The responsibilities of developed and developingcountries remain a key issue before COP23 [image courtesy: UNclimatechange]</p>

The responsibilities of developed and developingcountries remain a key issue before COP23 [image courtesy: UNclimatechange]

The opening sessions of the annual UN climate summit left the delegations of India and China angry. Both nations wanted the issue of immediate action to combat climate change added to the agenda, but Fiji – which is presiding over CO23 – did not agree, saying there was no consensus on adding pre-2020 action to the agenda.

The 2015 Paris Agreement comes into effect in 2020, and pre-2020 action is largely the responsibility of developed countries. Delegates from India and China felt that rich nations had influenced Fiji’s decision, a feeling strengthened when a delegate from Switzerland said that it was unnecessary to add pre-2020 action to the agenda.

On further insistence by India and China, including public remarks at the opening plenary by their delegates, the presidency said it would hold further consultations and take a decision on the matter on 11 November, by which time half the summit will be over.

The proposal to include the pre-2020 action had been submitted on behalf of the Like Minded Developing Countries (LMDC) group, of which China and India are members. Climate negotiations are often conducted in blocks of countries, and many countries are members of more than one block.

Frank Bainimarama, Fiji’s prime minister and president of the summit, assured that he had carried out “intensive consultations” with countries over the proposed agenda items and had concluded from these consultations that while there was no consensus to include these items in the COP23 agenda, there was a willingness among  countries to exchange views and to explore ways forward. The additional agenda items were “unique and deserve focused attention”, he said, and asked the outgoing president of the summit – Salaheddine Mezouar of Morocco – to do so.

India said in response that the issue of pre-2020 actions was an ongoing agenda item and was very much part of a process that was mandated with arriving at the Paris Agreement in 2015, as well as to enhance mitigation action before 2020.

“While we have seen rapid progress on the post-2020 agenda, we have not seen similar progress on the pre-2020 agenda. Any delayed action is going to cost us more,” said Ravi Shankar Prasad, India’s delegate as the minister for law and justice, and information technology. “In the light of scientific evidence, there is no rationale for not taking up this item. This has been one of the key issues of trust and confidence among developing countries because any gap in the pre-2020 action will lead to further problems in the future. It will lead to a distribution of the mitigation gap on all developing countries.”

India also said that it would like to hear objections from other countries on the issue. “We have heard that everyone wants urgent action. We would like to hear how this can be a matter of doubt or a matter that does not have consensus.”

“If we don’t follow the decisions we have taken in the previous COPs, what confidence do we have that the decisions taken in this one would be honoured? What kind of confidence are we inspiring? What kind of trust are we generating in the process itself?” asked Shankar Prasad, pointing to the irony that while the Paris Agreement had come into force (in 2016), the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol had still not. Most rich nations have not ratified this protocol, which obliges developed countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

When the delegate from Switzerland agreed that pre-2020 action was an “important item”, but was being discussed under several other agenda items, the delegate from China said that while some countries might say different agenda items are already looking at pre-2020 issues, the “issues are not being addressed”.

“Even if it appears that there are items to address the issues, they do not address them in the manner in which they should be considered. There are gaps. If some countries insist that they are being addressed, it would be good to take stock of the progress and have a complete overview of all matters, and that is exactly what the LMDC is proposing. If we do not respect our previous decisions, how do we maintain the trust among parties? How do we show the world that we are on the right track. How do we prove the effectiveness of the multilateral process?”

The only response from Bainimarama was that a decision had been made and that they would come back to this on Saturday.

India stressed: “Whatever discussions we have been hearing, we have not heard any party opposing it.”

Li Shuo, senior climate and energy policy officer of Greenpeace East Asia, told “Everybody agrees on the need to accelerate near-term ambition. We hope we shall see some positive developments on this by Saturday.”