India (letter dated January 30, 2010, National Focal Point to Yvo de Boer) Late Saturday night (around 9.30 pm reportedly from the media release), the Indian government sent a letter to the UNFCCC secretariat in Bonn.
Importantly, the letter does not even mention the Copenhagen Accord, forget its desire to associate with it. Compare this to the US government’s letter, which states, “The United States is pleased to inform you, through this letter, of its desire to be associated with the Copenhagen Accord.” On the other hand the Indian government letter simply says that it is communicating the domestic mitigation actions. In other words, it would seem that the government, perhaps conscious of the deep and fundamental flaws in the Copenhagen Accord is stepping back.
The letter goes to state India will “endevour to reduce the emissions intensity of its GDP by 20-25% by 2020 in comparison to the 2005 level through domestic mitigation actions.” But also that these are “voluntary in nature and will not have a legally binding character”.
The government also put at rest the confusion if the target was to measure energy efficiency, emission intensity or carbon intensity of the energy sector (remember the statement in Parliament, where the minister used the different terms interchangeably). The emission intensity measurement will not include the agricultural sector, in other words it is a measure of the carbon intensity of the energy sector.
But what is fascinating is that the government has made it clear that it is backing the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This again is in variance with the US letter, which studiously avoids any reference to the UNFCCC. “The Convention requires that the developed country parties known as Annex I Parties undertake mitigation commitments with specific quantified targets to reduce their emissions, while the developing countries like India take mitigation actions in accordance with the principle of common but differentiated responsibility and respective capability” says India.
In other words, it will not support a shift towards the suggested Copenhagen-framework, which removes the basic difference between the industrialized and the developing.
It goes on to list the different provisions of the UNFCCC, under which it will take domestic actions -- (4.7). It also lists the provisions under which it will communicate its actions (including this letter). These relate to the National Communications of developing countries (Article 12 1 (b) and the provision under which such domestic action will be examined (Article 12, paragraph 4 and Article 10, paragraph 2(a)). This is important international legalize and has implications in terms of what India sees as the outcome from Copenhagen and a fair climate agreement.
The Copenhagen Accord had tried to change the terms of this communication by introducing “Non-Annex I Parties will communicate information on the implementation of their actions through National Communications, with provisions for international consultations and analysis under clearly defined guidelines that will ensure that national sovereignty is respected.” This was the most-sticky part of the Copenhagen Accord.
And the reason was simple: opening domestic action, which is not supported through technology or finance to international review means that all these actions are part of the international commitment. The final uneasy consensus hammered out using President Obama’s weight was to agree that these actions would be communicated through the National Communication but that guidelines would be developed for international consultations and analysis. But it was not clear who would develop the guidelines. Now India (and China) have restated that they would like the process embedded within the framework convention and that guidelines have to be developed by the conference of parties, not another body.
Clearly, India is rethinking how it can take leadership in the world of climate change. We are most threatened and we need an effective deal on climate change. Not a meaningless accord, created only to legitimize the US’s right to pollute.