October 19, 2009
Leaked Letter Says India May Cooperate on Climate Without Kyoto
With the news outlets writing obituaries for the Kyoto Protocol framework, a leaked letter from Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh suggests that even tough-talking India may be prepared to move past the mourning stage and negotiate at upcoming climate talks in Copenhagen.
Although Ramesh denied that he was in favor of a Kyoto-alternative, according to the Times Online (UK), the letter reveals he is not averse to the "national schedules" concept proposed by Australia at climate talks in Bangkok earlier this month:
"We must welcome initiatives to bring the US into the mainstream if need be through a special mechanism," the letter reportedly said. "If the Australian proposal of a schedule maintains this basic distinction and nature of differential obligations we should have no great objections."
India and China represent the two largest developing nations in the G77, which continues to insist that a global climate agreement be based on the Kyoto framework, largely because it does not require such nations to make binding commitments to climate change mitigation. If these two leaders of the developing world shift stances, however, it would seal the fate of a framework whose failure was set in motion when the U.S. refused to sign on over a decade ago.
As the Times reports:
Mr. Ramesh's proposals -- and the reactions they provoked -- shed some light into what is going on behind the scenes, on a national and an international level. Western governments have welcomed his suggestions: David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, said on Monday that "India wants to be a deal maker, not a deal breaker"
News of the leaked document inspired a rash of criticism from the developing community as well as Ramesh's colleagues and though he was quick to clarify that India still shared objectives with the rest of the developing world, even his response statement implies India may be ready to cooperate to forge a post-Kyoto framework:
"India is working, and will continue to work, closely with our partners in the G77 and China in articulating a common position on this issue, while also engaging with other countries to our benefit."
With even longtime Kyoto-supporter, the European Union, recently joining the U.S. in acknowledging the shortcomings of the failed climate treaty, the two giant developing nations are the last hold-outs advocating a renewal of the Kyoto treaty framework. If, as Miliband suggests, India truly wants to be a dealmaker and is open to embracing something like the more Kaya-Direct national schedules approach, this would almost certainly spell the end of the Kyoto framework.
A transition away from the failed Kyoto framework would effectively guarantee no global treaty will be signed when international negotiators meet in Copenhagen in December. Shelving Kyoto and building consensus around a new framework that requires strategic, actionable commitment from all countries will take time, but efforts already seem well underway.
In fact, delegates may find a more productive use of the climate talks to discuss the actual cost, in terms of real currency, of mitigating climate change instead of haggling over abstract and unenforceable emissions targets and timetables. If India truly intends to facilitate global cooperation, it may do more to put the pressure on rich, developed nations, like the U.S., to make actionable commitments to direct investment in clean technology development and deployment and international financial aid than ever before.