Reaching a climate deal in Copenhagen will depend on rich nations’ proactive commitment to making mandatory emission cuts at home, prominent experts from India and China reiterate in a couple of opinion pieces in Nature [subscription] today. And it will require exceptional diplomatic skill, adds a veteran climate negotiator.
While accepting the United Nation’s principle of ‘common but differentiated’ responsibility, India cannot yet agree to mandatory domestic emissions limits, says Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change. At the most, India might offer “at an appropriate stage of the negotiations” the country’s National Action Plan on Climate Change as part of a global package of commitments.
In return for voluntary domestic action, India will expect from the developed world technical and financial aid for switching to low-carbon technologies and adapting to anticipated climate change, Pachauri explains. “India feels strongly that on the basis of historical responsibility and consideration of equity, developed countries should provide financial support for adaptation in developing countries,” he says.
Jiahua Pan of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ Institute for Urban and Environmental Studies in Beijing follows a similar line of thought in outlining China’s position. The G8’s intention to halve global emissions by 2050, with 80% cuts by the developed and 20% by the developing world, translates into lasting inequity, he argues. A fair deal, says Pan, would require wealthier countries, which currently emit greenhouse gases at almost five times the per capita rate of developing nations and economies in transition, to cut their emissions by at least 40 % by 2020.
“The developing nations will have every reason to follow suit if the rich nations demonstrate leadership,” he says.
A successful deal at Copenhagen will furthermore depend on financial resources for adaptation measures in poorer countries, including technology transfer, he says. He points out that China already invests more heavily in low-carbon energy than most rich nations. But he cautions that the shift to carbon-free energy sources comes with competitive disadvantages. Fears that a premature shift will slow economic development are virulent throughout the developing world, he says.
“Developed countries are concerned with immediate negative economic effects, whereas the developing countries are worried about their future well-being if they sign up to a legally binding, but unrealistic, target.”
In a third piece, Raúl Estrada-Oyuela, the Argentine diplomat who led the negotiations that produced the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, argues that success in Copenhagen will critically depend on the skills of the lead negotiator.
Estrada-Oyuela recounts the delicate international diplomacy, seasoned with episodes of near-failure and last-minute breakthroughs, which brought about the all-too modest Kyoto treaty. Inexperience on the part of the Danish minister of energy and climate, Connie Hedergaard, who will officially preside over the Copenhagen talks, could prove a stumbling block on the road to a more ambitious successor agreement, he warns.