China and India Plan a Walk-Out at Copenhagen

Just as India indicated it might follow the example of China (and much of the world) in announcing caps on carbon emissions, the country's ministers have announced they may follow China somewhere else at next month's meeting in Copenhagen: to the exit.

As Denmark prepares a draft proposal that could set the agenda at Copenhagen, the four leading developing world economies -- Brazil, South Africa, India and China, or BASIC -- are preparing a set of counter proposals. If developed nations don't agree to their terms, they said at a meeting on Saturday, they and other developing nations could walk out of the conference.What Brazil, South Africa, India and China Want
Along with an extension of the Kyoto protocol -- a predecessor to a Copenhagen agreement, and one which the US opposes -- BASIC has made new demands, reports the Times of India, including the contribution of funds (for stopping forest degradation, for instance) and the sharing of green technology.

Though the four countries and the chair of G-77 said in a press release that they were keen to make a "contribution towards a consensus in Copenhagen," they added

We are in agreement on major issues including those relating to the establishment of a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol, as well as shared vision for long term cooperative action on climate change, mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions, adaptation to the impact of climate change, and the provision of finance and technology to support and enable these actions, taking into account the special needs of the least developed countries, the small island developing states and African countries.

What BASIC Doesn't Want
Despite its half-hearted pledge to pledge emissions cuts, the Indian government holds that it will not accept any pressure from developed countries to establish legally binding emission targets at Copenhagen, but take only what they determine to be "nationally appropriate mitigation actions," or NAMAs.

A much less popular acronym among developing nations is MRV, as in "measurable, reportable and verifiable" emissions cuts. Among the BASIC countries, China has been especially vocal in its resistance to MRV. But that's a measure the US and others say is crucial, especially for a country like China, where emissions are high and statistics are murky.

India is also opposed to the idea of a peaking year, after which each country's greenhouse gas emissions will begin to drop.

Of course, BASIC could be bluffing in an attempt to motivate developed countries to begin signing off on their demands. There's still much wiggle room to spare, but the issue of significant monetary pledges will remain a serious hurdle. When the meeting begins on December 7, those pledges will still be seen by some developed countries (or their voters) as a form of blackmail. The sometimes dubious Clean Development Mechanism has not provided a good example.

But if Copenhagen can host a new, frank discussion on climate aid that involves grants, loans and technology transfers -- and poses aid not as just altruism, but as something that helps donor countries too -- then the UN may be able to avoid a rush for the exit.

And if they do walk out, rising nations like China and India could only earn even more suspicion, a development that could easily sabotage future talks.

Hopefully developing countries will see the conference as a moment for cooperation rather than acrimony, as a chance to assume leadership roles that have been mostly squandered by the developed countries, and as an opportunity to take some responsibility for a problem that effects them more than anyone else.

Maybe someone should remind India and China that when they're not talking about walk-outs, they're both worrying about disappearing water -- and potentially even fighting over it.

Tags: China | Developing Nations | India