India, China and the US finally unblocked the environment logjam which held the world hostage on climate change. The three nations, ranked as the largest emitters of greenhouse gases, pledged to join the pact that would take effect in 2020. Envoys from more than 190 nations also extended the Kyoto Protocol, the only ratified treaty limiting greenhouse gases. They will develop a document with “legal force” by 2015 that would curb pollution for all nations, according to a text adopted on Sunday in Durban, South Africa.
Not to be subjected to the carbon burden of the developed world, China and India stood tall against the EU, holding their stand that the new emission reduction regime will be decided on the basis of equity, which could mean much lower emission reduction for India as compared to China, whose per capita global warming causing carbon release is almost double of India’s. India has agreed to reduce its emission intensity by 20-25 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2020.
“India will never be intimidated by threats,” India’s Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan said in a passionate speech to delegates, “How do I give a blank check and give a legally-binding agreement to sign away the rights of 1.2 billion people?”
China’s top climate change negotiator, Xie Zhenhua backed India. “What needs to be pointed out is that developed countries lack the political will to reduce emissions and provide finance and the transfer of technology to support developing countries, which is a major obstacle for international cooperation in addressing climate change,” Xie told China Daily.
When the Kyoto treaty was drafted in 1997 to reduce emissions in the industrial world, China and India weren’t required to participate because they weren’t yet considered major industrial nations. The U.S. helped design the agreement, but Congress failed to ratify it precisely because those major developing countries didn’t have to check their emissions as well.
After nearly 20 consecutive hours of negotiations, China and India nearly derailed the new 2020 pact early Sunday by refusing to accept a strict “legal instrument,” to police emissions cuts. Instead, the version of the agreement that emerged contained the phrase “legal force”—a broader term that is seen as offering governments more leeway to identify how to curb emissions.
Separately, envoys agreed to establish a fund to guide the flow of much of what they hoped would be US$100 billion in annual pledges by 2020 to mitigate the impact of climate change in poor countries.