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Rich countries failing in climate pledges, says India

by Staff Writers
Bonn, Germany (AFP) June 11, 2009
India blasted rich countries at the UN climate talks on Thursday, accusing them of snubbing scientists' warnings to slash their emissions of greenhouse gases by 40 percent by 2020 over 1990 levels.

India's special envoy, Shyam Saran, said efforts to complete a new climate pact in Copenhagen this December hinged on advanced economies delivering "clarity" on the scale of their emissions cuts.

And he cautioned them against any attempt to shift the base year of 1990 which is traditionally used in the world climate talks.

"There has been hardly any progress on achieving the key objective of our negotiations... which must be of a scale that must be equal to the scale we face from global climate change," Saran said at a news conference in Bonn.

"Some individual targets that have been indicated fall far short of what is required, and there are inadmissible attempts to abandon the agreed baseline for emissions reductions," he said.

"(...) A Copenhagen outcome without clarity on this important issue is unlikely."

Saran's remarks touched on the most intractable issue in the climate talks, whose latest 12-day round wraps up in Bonn on Friday.

He refused to name names, but his fire seemed clearly aimed at the United States and Japan, the world's second and fourth biggest greenhouse-gas emitters.

Japan says it plans to cut greenhouse-gas emissions by 15 percent by 2020, while a bill before the US Congress would reduce America's emissions by 17 percent by 2020.

But both use the benchmark of 2005, not the far more demanding starting point of 1990, which is the traditional date used in the UN talks. If 1990 is used, Japan's cuts would only be around eight percent, and the United States' roughly four percent.

In 2007, the Nobel-winning UN science organisation, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) sketched an array of scenarios for tackling climate change.

The most ambitious -- the one in which the least damage was inflicted to the world's weather systems -- entailed emissions cuts of 25-40 percent by industrialised countries by 2020 over 1990.

Saran said that this scientific opinion, and the likely failure of many industrialised countries to meet their 2012 promises under the Kyoto Protocol, was what drove the demand of India and other developing countries.

"If we are being told that we are very close to the tipping point, if we are being told that action on climate change is even more urgent than before, then a 40-percent reduction by 2020 appears to be a rather reasonable target," he said.

"It also takes into account the fact that very little progress has been made on achieving the targets that were set for the first commitment period."

China, for its part, has demanded rich countries reduce their annual emissions by at least 40 percent by 2020 compared with 1990 levels.

But only the European Union (EU) has come close to such figures, targetting a reduction of 20 percent by 2020, with the offer of deepening this to 30 percent if other advanced economies follow suit.

Both the United States and Japan experienced a major growth in emissions from 1990 to the middle part of this decade.

Japan is seven percent above its 1990 levels while the US is around 15 percent above it, say experts.

Questioned about what India would offer, Saran reiterated that, like other emerging giants, his country was "prepared to look at a significant deviation" from business-as-usual rises in emissions, provided rich economies also made promises on funds and transfer and clean technology. He gave no details.

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