India: a major player and constructive force in Durban by Connie Hedegaard, European Commissioner for Climate Action
The Durban conference which ended last weekend marks a breakthrough in international efforts to combat climate change.
The European Union and India played a key role in the final negotiations that unlocked the agreement on the last morning of the conference. Together, we found the compromise that provided the basis for launching negotiations on a new global legal framework for climate action the world so badly needs.
It is no secret that the European Union wanted the Durban Platform to be about developing either a protocol or another legal instrument. India wanted to add "a legal outcome" as a third possibility. The EU felt this was too weak. At around 3am on Sunday the South African presidency of the conference asked the EU and India, plus other interested parties, to "huddle" together and sort out our differences.
Minister Jayanthi Natarajan and I agreed on the formula "an agreed outcome with legal force". While protecting our respective interests we both gave a bit of ground to get a good result for the global community. That is what UN negotiations are about. This is what a successful outcome for almost 200 different Parties looks like.
The EU believes the new global framework must be legally binding because this provides the strongest possible signal that countries will follow through on their commitments. This is vital to give confidence that all will deliver and to enable all of us to increase our commitments to the level of ambition science requires. A voluntary "pledge and review" system would not provide these assurances.
Of course developed countries must do more and earlier. But in today's interdependent world, what we all countries promise to do must have equal legal weight. The EU fully recognizes that commitments to curb emissions should be differentiated in line with the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities" enshrined in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
In stating that the new global climate framework will be placed under the Convention, the Durban Platform ensures that this principle will continue to apply. The EU fully supports that, but it must be applied in a way that takes account of the world as it is today, not as it was 20 years ago.
Today the majority of emissions come from developing countries, and all the projections point to this share continuing to increase. This means that we will simply not succeed if the major emerging economies are not on board too.
This would also not be in India's interest given its great vulnerability to the effects of climate change.
The agreement reached on the Durban Platform allowed the EU to agree to a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, as India and the rest of the developing world had demanded. We are keeping our side of the bargain.
But it should be clear to everyone by now that Kyoto is not going to save the planet. It covers too small a proportion of global emissions to prevent dangerous climate change. The EU accounts for 11% of emissions. With the others that may join, the second period will cover at most 15 or 16%.
Fortunately, Kyoto is not the only game in town. The result of the Copenhagen conference in 2009 and the Cancun conference last year mobilised significant action across the globe in the form of emission limitation or reduction pledges for 2020 from some 90 countries.
These include important action by India and other developing countries. India's National Action Plan on Climate Change is being implemented at full speed and this could enable India to overachieve its Copenhagen pledge for limiting its emissions intensity. We also understand that sustainable growth will be among the objectives of India's new five-year plan to be adopted in early 2012. This is very encouraging.
But we also know that despite the efforts from the EU, India and many others, the sum of emission reductions for 2020 resulting from our collective efforts is insufficient. The Durban Platform explicitly recognised this and launched a workplan to enhance our collective ambition and explore ways to close the "ambition gap", both before and after 2020.
To have a chance of holding global warming below 2°C compared to the temperature in pre-industrial times, the global community is going to have to pull together. That is why a new framework for truly global action is needed.
The EU fully acknowledges that while India is now one of the biggest emitters in absolute terms due to the size of its population, its per capita emissions are very low compared to those of the developed world and other major emerging economies.
We also respect that India's contribution will reflect the tremendous development challenges it faces, not least the need to eradicate poverty and provide energy access to all. Nobody denies the absolute priority given to meeting these challenges and that this will mean that India's emissions will continue to grow in the near future – even on a low carbon development pathway. On the contrary, the EU is convinced that the best way forward is through a coherent sustainability strategy that addresses these challenges and the climate challenge together. Our desire is to design a legally binding multilateral framework that helps India to do this.
While once again confirming India's role as a major player and robustly defending her country's interests, Minister Natarajan ensured in Durban that the world can move forward in tackling one of the greatest challenges facing mankind today. For this Minister Natarajan has my sincere appreciation, and she deserves no less from others.