UNFCCC Climate Change Summit Shows Rare India and China Unity

by Joydeep Gupta

Poznan (Poland), Dec 17. The climate change summit may have ended in failure, but it showed rare unity of purpose between India and China which took on the industrialised world together at the closing moments of the climate summit here. The Indian position also received support from Pakistan.

Knowing that developing countries had failed to get the industrialised world to part with even one extra percent of their profits from carbon trade, India started the note of dissent at the final session of the Dec 1-12 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Industrialised countries led by the European Union, Japan, Canada, Australia and Russia had refused to part with the money sought by developing countries to help them cope with climate change effects. That had happened behind closed doors. Then the Indian delegation chose to make the matter public in a dramatic finale.

Prodipto Ghosh, member of the Prime Minister's Council on Climate Change, rose on a point of order in the final open session of the Conference of Parties (CoP) - which is held in the same way as a UN General Assembly session - and said: "In the 12 CoPs I have been privileged to attend so far, this is one of the saddest moments I have witnessed."

As CoP president and Poland's Environment Minister Maciej Nowicki fumbled with his response to Ghosh's impassioned speech, the Chinese delegate rose on one point of order after another, excitedly banging on his country's name plate with his pen, to support the Indian stand again and again, to oppose the supposedly-consensual conclusions reached by Nowicki.

His manner made evident the extent to which developing countries were angry by what they saw as a cynical refusal to help on the part of industrialised countries that had put almost all excess greenhouse gases in the atmosphere in the first place.

The excess is leading to climate change, which is already lowering farm output, leading to more frequent and more severe droughts, floods and storms and raising the sea level, with developing countries bearing the brunt.

While the Chinese delegate kept objecting to Nowicki, delegates from Pakistan, Gabon, Colombia, the Maldives and a number of other developing countries came out into the open to strongly support the Indian position and take on the industrialised world.

The Colombian delegate was especially eloquent in his denunciation of industrialised countries, a surprise to most observers given the close ties between the governments of Colombia and the US. But the Poznan climate summit reiterated that over climate change virtually the entire developing world is together.

What was this divisive issue? Minutes before Ghosh's intervention, Nowicki had announced that an Adaptation Fund that would provide money to least developed countries (LDC) to cope with climate change effects had become operational at the Poznan summit.

But the fund now has less than one percent of the money developing countries need to cope with climate change effects, as estimated by the UN Development Programme. Its funding comes from a two percent levy on money that industrialised countries make through carbon trading.

Developing countries wanted to raise this two percent levy to three percent to help put more money into the Adaptation Fund. Industrialised countries refused.

Ghosh said the agreement "fell apart for one, and one reason only. That is the refusal of some parties (countries) to experience the least loss of profits from trading in carbon".

"Let us look at why this refusal is tragic and painful," Ghosh told those of the over 3,000 delegates from 186 countries who were still left in the final plenary session.

"Even now, millions of poor people in developing countries are losing their homes, their livelihoods, and their lives from impacts of climate change. Most live in extreme privation at the best of times; climate change takes away their pitiable homes, hearths and bread.

"We can all of us now see clearly what lies ahead at Copenhagen."

Copenhagen will host the next summit in December 2009, by when the world is expected to conclude a fresh deal to combat climate change.

Nowicki said after the closing session here: "I fully understand and support the feelings of disappointment expressed by some countries."