Natarajan to join Indian delegation at climate talks

Durban: Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan will lead the Indian delegation in the second week of negotiation at the stalled climate talks that are yet to see a forward movement on crucial questions of carbon emission reduction and legally binding commitments.

The first week of talks did not see breakthroughs on key issues like reduction of carbon emissions and setting up of the Green Climate Fund, which will provide USD 100 billion a year from 2020 to developing countries to combat climate change.

The European Union, the United States and the developing countries are firm on their long-stated positions that require the other party to do more. The Kyoto Protocol, which is the only legally-binding treaty on climate change, hangs in the balance.

Negotiators from 194 countries need to decide on steps to restrict the Earth`s temperature rise to 2 degree Celsius. Natarajan, who took over from Jairam Ramesh as the environment minister early this year is set to arrive later in the day to lead the Indian negotiators.

Under the Kyoto Protocol, 37 developed countries have been placed under international legal obligations to reduce carbon emissions during a first commitment period, which expires next year.

Some countries like Japan and Canada are threatening to withdraw from the treaty citing it ineffective because it leaves out the bulk of carbon emissions produced by China and India, and the fact that the US has refused to ratify it.

The EU is willing to sign up for a second commitment period if emerging economies also agree to take internationally binding carbon emissions cuts in the future.

However, now the EU is proposing a new track of negotiations that will place all countries under one legally binding treaty, which the bloc wants to negotiate by 2015 so that it can come into force by 2020.

This is viewed by developing countries as a complete abandonment of the current negotiating tracks that have been agreed to by the governments in the past decade. It is also feared that this would leave developed countries under no obligation to reduce their carbon emissions from 2011 to 2020.

Negotiators from developing countries say that this will be a decade of no action. The US and India, for their respective reasons, are resisting putting down any future obligations into a treaty.

This has caused activists and NGOs to club them together as deal breakers. But New Delhi insists that poverty eradication remains its top priority and it will not accept international obligations to reduce its carbon emissions at this stage.

India has also dismissed as "rumours" reports that it has been in backroom negotiations with the US to push back any action on a legally-binding treaty on global warming at the ongoing climate conference.

"In this hall there are many rooms, but there are many more rumours," Jayant Mauskar, India`s lead negotiator at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) summit, said when questioned about reports of backdoor dealings.

The US is also pushing for voluntary pledges to reduce emissions. They prefer a political commitment instead of a legally binding instrument. India has agreed that developing countries could take on voluntary pledges.

But New Delhi wants developed countries to take on legally binding cuts since they have a "historical responsibility" for polluting the atmosphere since the industrial revolution.

Earlier in the week, the draft for the design of the Green Climate Fund was discussed. This was seen as a positive development and developing countries are pushing for the Fund to be operationalised in Durban.

Now, however, several splits have emerged on the structure of the Fund, the money sources and which institution will be best suited to run it.