TWN Info Service on Climate Change (Aug11/01)
29 August 2011
Third World Network

BASIC ministers on Durban expectation, caution against unilateralism

Beijing, 28 Aug (Chee Yoke Ling) – As the global climate negotiations pick up momentum ministers from Brazil, South Africa, India and China (BASIC) met again to coordinate their perspectives on key negotiation and implementation issues, cautioned against the “dangers of unilateralism” by developed countries, and reaffirm the importance of the unity of developing countries.

The eighth BASIC Ministerial Meeting on climate change took place in Inhotim, Minas Gerais, Brazil on 26-27 August 2011 ahead of the next set of negotiations in Panama (1-7 October).

The annual meeting of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its Kyoto Protocol will be in Durban, South Africa on 28 November to 9 December.

This latest BASIC meeting was attended by Antonio de Aguiar Patriota (Minister of External Relations of Brazil), Izabella Teixeira (Minister for the Environment of Brazil), Maite Nkoana-Mashabane (Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa as incoming President of the Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC), Edna Molewa (Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs of South Africa), Xie Zhenhua (Vice-Chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission of China), and J.M. Mauskar (Special Secretary  for Environment and Forests of India). In line with the “BASIC-plus” approach, Argentina as chair of the G77 and China was invited.

The Joint Statement of Ministers issued at the end of the meeting set out the four countries’ expectations of the Durban outcome as well their calls for the implementation of decisions and agreements made at the 16th meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP) to the UNFCCC last year in Cancun, Mexico.

The Ministers reiterated the importance of achieving “a comprehensive, balanced and ambitious result in Durban in the context of sustainable development and in accordance with the provisions and principles of the [UN Framework Convention on Climate Change], in particular the principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, and the Bali Road Map.”

[The Bali Road Map of 2007 includes two main components: First, the Bali Action Plan, which launched a negotiation process to enable the full, effective and sustained implementation of the UNFCCC 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 in December 2010, 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 COP, proceeded to gavel a consensus. In 2011 Parties continue to work on unresolved issues as well as implement the agreements reached in Cancun.]

The BASIC Ministers at last week’s meeting in Brazil stated that the result of Durban “must fully cover negotiations under the two tracks of the UNFCCC:  the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP) and the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long Term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA).”

They emphasized that Durban must advance all aspects of the negotiations, including the establishment of Annex I (developed country Parties) commitments for the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol and comparable commitments by non-Kyoto Protocol Annex I Parties, the operationalization of the Cancun decisions and resolving pending issues not concluded in Cancun.

They emphasized “the centrality of adaptation and means of implementation as part of a balanced and comprehensive outcome” and that these are elements needed to ensure balance in the completion of the Bali Road Map and Bali Action Plan.

The Ministers underlined that agreeing on the second commitment period is the central priority for Durban, as “failure in this regard would generate a challenge to multilateralism and would undermine the rules based multilateral response to climate change under the UNFCCC.”

They reiterated their support for “a transparent and inclusive preparatory process to ensure that Durban takes a major step forward in working towards the perspective of a comprehensive, ambitious, fair and effective outcome, ensuring the full, effective and sustained implementation of the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol.”

On the Kyoto Protocol the Ministers reaffirmed that this is “a cornerstone of the climate change regime.” They underscored the role of the Kyoto Protocol in ensuring deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions from developed countries commensurate with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessments and the 2°C goal recognized in Cancun.

They stressed that the continuation of the flexibility mechanisms of the Kyoto Protocol, in particular the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), is contingent upon the establishment of quantified emission reduction commitments by Annex I Parties under the second commitment period.

[The first commitment period for greenhouse gas emissions reduction will end in 2012 and negotiations for a second commitment period continue to be difficult. Canada, Japan and Russia have declared that they will not commit to a second phase of emission reductions under the Kyoto Protocol, while other developed countries have attached conditions to their further commitments.]

The Ministers urged Parties to the Kyoto Protocol to work constructively to ensure that there is no gap between the first and second commitment periods. They emphasized that “the perspective of Annex I Parties leaving the Kyoto Protocol to present their mitigation contribution under the AWG-LCA can only be the reflection of reduced political will to cut their greenhouse gas emissions. It is hardly conceivable that a country would leave the Kyoto Protocol to do more.” 

The Ministers further took note of India´s submission of items to be added to the provisional agenda of the COP in Durban, underlining the importance of addressing pending issues which must be advanced in Durban. This is essential to generate the necessary balance in the climate change negotiations, they stressed.

[In June India submitted the following items for inclusion: (i) under the agenda item 'Development and transfer of technologies', a sub-item on 'Mitigation and adaptation actions and technology related Intellectual Property Rights'; (ii) under the agenda item 'Review of implementation of commitments and other provisions of the Convention', to include 'Equitable access to sustainable development' and 'Unilateral trade measures'. The Indian submission provided the explanatory notes in respect of each additional agenda item as proposed.

These important issues are contentious because developed countries do not wish to address them in the UNFCCC negotiations.]

On the agreements made at the last COP meeting in Cancun, the Ministers called for “the early operationalization of all the institutions agreed to in Cancun, including the registry for nationally appropriate mitigation actions (by developing countries) and international support; the Adaptation Committee; the Technology Executive Committee, Centre and Network; and the Green Climate Fund, which must provide significant means of implementation for immediate action to tackle climate change.”

They highlighted that “the extent to which developing countries can implement their actions is dependent on the extent to which developed countries fulfill their commitment to provide sufficient financing, technological support and capacity building for both mitigation and adaptation.”

On the Green Climate Fund specifically, the Ministers stressed “the importance of ensuring appropriate overview of the Green Climate Fund by the Conference of the Parties, in order to ensure its adequate management and timely disbursements to developing countries.” They emphasized that “the Transitional Committee should interact with, and be guided by the AWG-LCA.”

On financing the Ministers considered work by BASIC experts on a common reporting format for rigorous, robust and transparent accounting of finance by Annex I Parties. They said that, “a common reporting format for finance is a priority for Durban to enable accounting of performance against the delivery of the quantified finance target of US$ 100 billion per year by 2020.”

They also underlined the importance of ensuring the scaling up of financing up to and beyond 2020. They reiterated the need to ensure that “accounting of finance by all developed countries be consistent, complete, comparable, transparent and accurate.”
They further stressed the importance of “detailed and comprehensive information on fast start financial flows provided by developed countries, which should be made available officially” and reaffirmed their view that the UNFCCC Secretariat should publish information on funding already disbursed under fast start financing, as this relates to a multilateral commitment.

On measuring, reporting and verifying mitigation by Annex 1 Parties, the Ministers reflected on BASIC expert discussions on this crucial topic. They “underscored the need for stringent common accounting rules, with a view to ensuring transparency and comparability of mitigation commitments by all developed countries.” Accordingly they stressed that, “the rules of the Kyoto Protocol are the reference for the efforts undertaken by all developed countries in this area”.

The Ministers also expressed the importance of operationalizing the transparency arrangements by developing countries, based on existing provisions under the Convention. They pointed out “the robust contribution already offered by developing countries in emission reductions, which demonstrates a higher level of effort in comparison to mitigation by developed country Parties”.

On the issue of equitable access to sustainable development they welcomed the work undertaken by BASIC experts on “a framework for equitable access to sustainable development”, as requested at the 6th BASIC Ministerial Meeting. This work will serve as a valuable contribution to the body of scientific knowledge informing policy development, according to the ministerial statement.

On the topic of reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) the Ministers “recognized the importance of enhancing action to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, enhance removals by forests and sustainable forestry management practices, on the basis of scaled up international financing and technology transfer”. They also underlined important additional benefits that REDD+ can offer to sustainable development in areas such as biodiversity protection.

The Ministers addressed the “dangers of unilateralism” and expressed their concern over “unilateral climate change measures, planned or implemented, which generate negative impacts on other countries”. They expressed their “strong concern with the decision of the European Union to include the aviation sector in the EU Emission Trading System, including flights to and from its territory by non-European airline companies.” 

On the G77 and China, the Ministers emphasized the importance of Group’s unity and its key role in climate change negotiations. They noted “the clear demonstrations by the G77 and China of leadership and willingness to contribute to a strong global effort”.

They decided to maintain the “BASIC-plus” approach, in order to enhance the transparency of the BASIC meetings.

The Ministers also discussed their perspective for the Rio+20 Conference in 2012. In this regard, they stressed the important role of BASIC countries in ensuring success of Rio+20, as well as the Durban Conference on Climate Change and the New Delhi Conference on Biodiversity (India will host the 11th meeting of the Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2012).

The Ministers stressed that, “This is a clear sign of their firm commitment to advance multilateral solutions to global problems”.
China will host the Ninth BASIC ministerial on 31 October to 1 November. A meeting of experts will be held alongside this Ministerial meeting.+