TWN Info Service on Climate Change (Oct09/04)
24 October 2009
Third World Network

Please find below an opinion piece by Mr. Chandrashekhar Dasgupta that was published in The Telegraph (Calcutta, India) on 21 October 2009.

The link to the article is:


- There is a real fear that the Kyoto Protocol will be killed soon


Two years ago, amidst much fanfare, a United Nations ministerial meeting in the fabled island of Bali adopted a “roadmap” for tackling climate change. The roadmap laid down two tracks for progress, corresponding to the two international agreements on climate change — the Kyoto Protocol and the Framework Convention on Climate Change.

With regard to the first track, it required developed countries that are parties to the Kyoto Protocol to adopt their post-2012 emission reduction commitments in a timely manner. Under the second track, the Bali Action Plan called upon all countries to “urgently enhance implementation of the Convention”. The United States of America — the only party refusing to ratify the Kyoto Protocol — is required to adopt an emission reduction commitment reflecting “comparability of efforts” with those of other developed countries under the protocol. Developing countries are expected to implement nationally appropriate mitigation actions “supported and enabled” by finance and technology from the developed countries. The new post-2012 emission reduction commitments of developed countries under the Kyoto Protocol, as well as the details of measures for “enhanced implementation” of the convention, were to be adopted at Copenhagen in December 2009.

Great expectations have understandably been built up for the Copenhagen conference, against the background of dire scientific estimates of the extent and severity of climate-change impacts. Sadly, these expectations will not be met. With barely six weeks left for the inaugural session, the negotiations remain deadlocked.

The deadlock is caused by the adamant refusal of the developed countries to respect the terms of the Bali roadmap. The Bali Action Plan, as we have noted, calls for enhanced implementation by all countries of their respective commitments under the FCCC. The developed countries, however, are insisting on revising the provisions of the FCCC in a manner that would enable them to transfer a large share of their responsibilities and commitments to the shoulders of developing countries such as India. With the same objective in mind, they are also determined to kill the Kyoto Protocol, unless the developing countries agree to a drastic revision of its terms. The daggers are out for the protocol and it will be buried in Copenhagen if the developed countries have their way.

An outline of the basic features of the FCCC and its Kyoto Protocol will help explain the issues at stake in Copenhagen. The convention and the protocol are based on the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities” of countries. Since developed countries are primarily responsible for causing climate change (because of their high per capita emissions since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution), the convention requires them to reduce their emissions in a time-bound manner. It also requires them to provide finance and technology to developing countries to help them respond to climate change. The Kyoto Protocol supplements the convention by laying down specific emission reduction commitments of developed countries for the period ending 2012. It also requires them to adopt further commitments for periods beyond 2012.

The convention and the protocol do not require developing countries to implement mitigation actions involving incremental costs, unless these costs are fully covered by developed countries. The convention states specifically that the “extent to which developing country Parties will implement their commitments under the Convention will depend on the effective implementation by developed country Parties of their commitments under the Convention related to financial resources and transfer of technology”.

In short, the convention and the protocol reflect recognition of the fact that developing countries are victims of climate change, a phenomenon induced primarily by the industrialized countries. Indeed, the world would not be confronted with a climate-change problem if all countries had the same per capita emissions as India.

The developed countries are now pressing aggressively to replace the Kyoto Protocol with a new climate-change agreement which would enable them to transfer a large share of their responsibilities and obligations to developing countries. They are insisting that developing countries, with the exception of the Least Developed Countries, should also take on legally binding mitigation commitments and meet the costs of implementing these measures. Poorer countries may receive some “assistance”, depending on an assessment of their “needs”, but this would not in any case cover the full incremental costs. Moreover, developing countries would also be required to contribute financial resources for “assisting” other developing countries. In short, they would have to shoulder a considerable share of the obligations assigned to the developed countries under the existing agreements. The objective is not only to scrap the Kyoto Protocol but also to severely maim the FCCC and the principles upon which it is based. Ignoring questions of equity, the industrialized countries are simply shrugging off their historical responsibility for causing climate change.

A particularly objectionable feature of these proposals is the demand that developing countries should submit projected long-term emission trajectories up to 2050, so as to ensure adequacy of the total global effort. The fact that this is coupled with a rejection of the concept of equal per capita emission entitlements for all countries makes this a truly sinister demand. Developed countries are seeking to impose an agreement that would allow them to maintain per capita emissions that are several times higher than those of developing countries. Since carbon emissions result mainly from the use of coal, oil and natural gas to generate energy, this means that developing countries would have to surrender their right to access these energy sources on an equal per capita basis. Developing countries would be subject to unequal emission constraints in pursuing their energy options.

The FCCC permits developing countries to pursue the overriding priorities of economic and social development and poverty eradication, simultaneously with climate-change mitigation, since the incremental costs have to be met by the industrialized countries. The proposals now being pressed by the industrialized countries would require developing countries themselves to bear the incremental costs of mitigation actions, either in full or, at least, in substantial measure. By requiring developing countries to divert scarce resources from their national priorities, the proposed new protocol would slow down the development of the so-called “emerging economies” such as China, India, Brazil and South Africa and blunt the rising competitiveness of their economies. It would be fair to view this as an attempt by the leading economic powers to preserve their existing privileges at the expense of the developing countries and to slow down the ongoing shift in the global economic balance.

During the next six weeks before Copenhagen, our leaders will come under heavy pressure to accept the proposal for a new agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol. India must continue to firmly defend the cause of environmental justice and its own national interest. We must resist the conspiracy to kill the Kyoto Protocol.

The author is a retired ambassador.