TWN Info Service on Climate Change (Mar11/01)
3 March 2011
Third World Network

BASIC countries reaffirm existing UN climate architecture
Published in SUNS #7099 dated 2 March 2011

Beijing, 1 Mar (Chee Yoke Ling) -- The environment ministers of Brazil, South Africa, India and China stressed in a joint statement on 27 February that the Cancun Agreements from last December's United Nations climate talks in Mexico "were not a substitute for the Bali Road Map" and thus, the latter "continues to be the template for future work" of governments.

The four developing countries (BASIC) share a climate coordination platform and met for the sixth time in New Delhi on 26-27 February to discuss the outcome of the 2010 Cancun Conference in Mexico and the approach to be taken to the future work in the run-up to Durban, South Africa, where the next annual conference of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its Kyoto Protocol will be held.

They agreed that a second commitment period for greenhouse gases emission reduction under the Kyoto Protocol is "critical to achieving the global goal of ambitious emissions reduction and global peaking of emissions". They stressed that a decision has to be taken at the next climate conference in Durban, South Africa in December 2011 "to ensure that there is no gap between the first and the second commitment periods" (the first commitment period will end in 2012).

[All developing countries have consistently stood by their position that developed countries Parties must honour the Kyoto Protocol's legally binding commitments and take on deep emissions reductions in accordance with the demands of science, and that there cannot be a gap between the two commitment periods.]

The joint statement of the BASIC ministers also identified gaps in the Cancun Agreements and outlined the Ministers' common views on several key issues such as adaptation, finance and technology. The importance of an inclusive, Party-driven and transparent multilateral process in reaching decisions was also stressed.

In line with their "BASIC-plus" approach, special invitees were also present as observers, and these represented the Group of 77 and China (Mr. Jorge Arturo Arguello, Permanent Representative of Argentina to the UN - Argentina is this year's Group Chair), the Africa Group (Mr. H. Benhadjoudja Abdelkader, Special Representative of the Minister of Algeria), and Small Island States (Mr. Mohamed Aslam, Minister of Housing and Environment of the Maldives).

The New Delhi meeting was the first major international governmental meeting since Cancun and provided clarity on the stance of key developing countries.

According to the Press Trust of India, Indian environment minister Mr. Jairam Ramesh, in introducing the joint statement at a press conference, said: "There are a number of issues in the Bali Road Map that are not present in the Cancun Agreements and the BASIC Group of countries will make every effort to bring these issues back into the mainstream of the global climate change negotiations".

[The Bali Road Map includes two main components: Firstly, the Bali Action Plan, which launched a negotiation process to enable the full, effective and sustained implementation of the Convention through long-term cooperative action, now, up to and beyond 2012, in order to reach an agreed outcome and adopt a decision in 2009. Secondly, the negotiations under the Kyoto Protocol for the next commitment period of greenhouse gases emissions reduction by developed countries beyond 2012, also with the deadline of 2009.

[Failure to reach agreement led to the highly controversial political document, the Copenhagen Accord, being "taken note of" by UNFCCC Parties in 2009. In Cancun last December, a number of decisions were adopted after another political process rather than the customary intergovernmental negotiations. Bolivia was the only Party that objected formally but the Mexican environment minister, Ms. Patricia Espinosa, as President of the UNFCCC Conference of Parties (COP), proceeded to gavel a consensus.]

The BASIC Ministers, in their joint statement, identified the issues of equity, intellectual property rights and trade, as "very important for developing countries", but "were not adequately addressed in the Cancun Agreements and should form part of the future work of the parties".

According to the report of the Press Trust of India, Ramesh said: "These are the three very important issues in the BASIC quartet and it will be our endeavour to bring this and other Bali Road Map issues back into the mainstream of the negotiating agenda". He also said that among the many issues that need further clarity, the "two most critical issues are of the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol and the issue of Fast Track Finance (pledged by developed countries in the 2009 Copenhagen conference)".

According to a report of the press conference by Xinhua news agency, Ramesh said that it is highly regrettable and most unfortunate that even after 14 months of hard negotiation, the so-called fast-start fund of $30 billion over a three-year period is hardly fulfilled. The fast-start fund pledged by developed countries in Copenhagen is meant for Africa, small island states and least developed countries. "It is the key bargain, but it has not been started. Unless countries begin to see money flowing, the atmosphere at Durban would continue to be clouded with suspicions," Ramesh said.

Xinhua reported that at the same press conference, Mr. Xie Zhenhua, vice minister of the National Development and Reform Commission of China, said that participating countries in the BASIC ministerial meeting had assessed the Cancun Agreement and coordinated, unified and strengthened the position of developing countries.

The meeting was short, but all sides reached agreement on all the issues, Xie said. "[The] Cancun Agreements are only [a] task partly done under the framework and mandate of Bali Road Map, and we hope this year in Durban we can achieve the task".

He called on all countries in the world to strengthen mutual trust and political will to make Durban a success in order to respond to the challenge of climate change faced by all humanity. Xie was also reported by Press Trust of India to say: "We are going to safeguard the interests of developing countries to promote overall climate change negotiations' process ... The BASIC group will play a very active and constructive role in promoting overall process".

In the joint statement, the Ministers expressed concern over the UNFCCC Secretariat convening a meeting of the Transition Committee to design the new Climate Green Fund established in a Cancun decision, "even before many regional groups of countries have nominated their members". According to the statement, the decision on the meeting in Mexico City on 14-15 March was "premature", and the Ministers "stressed the need to respect the rules regarding convening of meetings and ensuring accountability, transparency and inclusiveness".

The joint statement also raised the issue of the accuracy of the version of the Cancun Agreements that have been posted on the UNFCCC website. The Ministers stressed that the final decision text should accurately reflect the agreements reached by Parties on specific issues at the end of the Cancun Conference. To this end, the draft unedited version of the Cancun Agreements appearing on the UNFCCC website needs to be brought in concordance with the (COP) Presidency's text adopted at Cancun.

On the upcoming meetings of the two working groups under the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol in Bangkok on 3-8 April, the Ministers emphasized that the agenda should be anchored in the overall framework of the Bali Road Map. They stressed that the agenda of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the UNFCCC (AWG-LCA), in particular, should follow the structure of the Bali Action Plan in order to ensure that the agenda is comprehensive and places equal importance on all issues under negotiation. The Ministers encouraged the Group of 77 and China to engage with the Chairs of the two working groups to have the agenda revised accordingly in time before the Bangkok meeting.

The Ministers stressed the need to maintain a balance between the obligations of the developed countries vis-a-vis those of developing countries. They emphasized the need for clear elaboration of a process to convert developed countries' pledges into economy-wide emission reduction obligations and rules to account for both mitigation and finance by Annex I Parties, in particular for accounting and compliance to be done in balance with the work on the guidelines for international consultation and analysis.

The Ministers also agreed that the guidelines for measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) for developing countries should be less onerous than the rules for enhanced MRV for developed country parties.

The Ministers agreed that the second Commitment Period under the Kyoto Protocol is critical to achieving the global goal of ambitious emissions reduction and global peaking of emissions. The effective operationalisation of the mechanisms for providing financial and technological support to developing countries was equally critical in enabling them to contribute to global efforts for addressing climate change. They also stressed that the decision on the Second Commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol should be taken at Durban to ensure that there is no gap between the first and the second commitment periods.

The Ministers observed that issues like equity, intellectual property rights and trade, which are very important for developing countries, were not adequately addressed in the Cancun Agreements and should form part of the future work of the parties. After discussions, the Ministers decided that the experts of the four BASIC countries will exchange views on rules for accounting for Annex-I countries and also prepare a synthesis document on the issue of equitable access to sustainable development to be considered in the next BASIC meeting.

On adaptation issues, the Ministers agreed that these should be accorded equal priority and the financing of adaptation actions should include a mechanism for loss and damage. They noted that there was an imbalance between the modalities for deciding on adaptation-related issues and the modalities for decision in other areas. They stressed that the adaptation and REDD Plus (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation) related issues should be addressed in a defined timeframe.

On financial support for climate change mitigation and adaptation actions, the Ministers were of the view that the decision to convene a meeting of the Transition Committee (for the new Climate Green Fund to be established following a Cancun decision) even before many regional groups of countries have nominated their members, was premature, and stressed the need to respect the rules regarding convening of meetings and ensuring accountability, transparency and inclusiveness. They urged that the Transition Committee should take guidance from and report to the AWG-LCA in respect of its work.

The Ministers noted that, despite the declarations at Copenhagen and Cancun, actual disbursement of funds is lacking even to small island developing states, Africa and least developed countries, who most needed adaptation finance. The Ministers urged that sizeable flow of funds under the Fast Start Funds pledged in Copenhagen in 2009 should begin before discussions on the Green Climate Fund gain momentum.

On technology, the Ministers noted the success of the creation of a Technology Mechanism at Cancun and felt that the Mechanism should go beyond providing technical assistance and capacity-building to enable acceleration of the development and piloting of the technologies that are appropriate for the developing countries.

They stated that further actions should be taken to address the issue of Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) and eligibility criteria in order to enhance and accelerate the development and transfer of mitigation and adaptation technologies. It was stressed that there was a direct link between the Technology Mechanism and the Financial Mechanism.

[In Cancun, developed countries rejected any inclusion of IPRs in the draft decisions even though there were numerous substantive provisions proposed by developing countries to address the obstacles posed by IPRs to technology transfer and development. Even a proposal for a workshop on the issue was not acceptable to developed countries.]

On HFC gases that are not ozone-depleting substances but some of these have high global warming potential, the Ministers felt that the issue of phase-down of HFCs with high global warming potential required in-depth examination.

Noting that three key events with significant inter-linkages are taking place over the next eighteen months, namely, the UNFCCC COP17 and seventh meeting of the Kyoto Protocol Parties at Durban, Rio+20 Summit at Rio de Janeiro and the Convention on Biological Diversity COP11 at New Delhi, the Ministers decided that the BASIC countries will work together in mobilizing political support for the success of these events.

The Ministers called for South Africa (as host of the next annual climate conference later this year) to strengthen the multilateral process (of negotiations) in an inclusive, party-driven and transparent manner.

They reiterated the commitment of the BASIC countries to continue to work to strengthen the unity of the Group of 77 and China.

At the New Delhi press conference, Brazil's Environment Minister, Ms. Izabella Monica Vieria Teixeira, was reported as saying: "We will work together to support our agenda. The next two years will be very crucial for sustainable development agenda."

South Africa's Environment Minister Bomo Edith Edna Molewa said: "Regarding Agreements arrived at Cancun, our emphasis will be on the issues of finance, technology and capacity-building etc. We have to [place] emphasis on finance to avoid some challenges which might arise at Durban."

South Africa will host the next and Seventh BASIC Ministerial Meeting on Climate Change in May 2011. +