PM to leave for Copenhagen on Thursday for climate change summit

New Delhi, December 16, 2009

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will leave here tomorrow for a two-day visit to Copenhagen to attend the last two days of the United Nations summit on climate change at which he is expected to push for a balanced and equitable outcome.

The Conference of Parties (COP-15) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) started on December 7 and will conclude on December 18.

Dr Singh will be accompanied on the visit by his Special Envoy on Climate Change Shyam Saran and Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao.

The Indian negotiating team has been at the conference right from the start while Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh has been in Copenhagen for the last few days.

Briefing journalists about the visit, Ms Rao said today that the Prime Minister's participation at the Copenhagen conference demonstrated how seriously India viewed the challenge of climate change and the importance it attached to intensifying international cooperation to address it.

Ms Rao said the Copenhagen conference was not a summit-level meeting. She said Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen had invited Heads of State or Government to the concluding days of the conference on December 17-18.

She said the exact format of the Heads of State/Government level session on December 18 was still evolving, but a formal plenary session with country statements was not expected. Denmark, as the host, is trying to provide a more interactive session.

Dr Singh is likely to be amongst those who will speak at the final session, along with other leaders such as United States President Barack Obama, Mr Rasmussen and UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao is amongst those who will be present at the session.

Ms Rao said that, at Copenhagen, the Parties were expected to conclude the process of negotiations launched under the Bali Action Plan (BAP) by the 13th Conference of Parties (COP-13) in December 2007 and reach an agreed outcome of all elements of the BAP. At the same time, the COP, serving as the meeting of Parties to Kyoto Protocol (KP), has to decide on the quantified emission to KP on the second commitment period beginning 2013.

She said that, from the current state of negotiations, it appeared that the developed countries were not prepared for a comprehensive outcome at Copenhagen that would bind them to fulfill the commitments for emissions reductions under Kyoto protocol and the UNFCCC.

"It appears that the CoP 15 Chair is working towards a political agreement, and not a legally binding agreement, that would cover immediate and strong action on all areas of the Bali mandate that would set the Parties on track for a comprehensive legal framework (in due course) during 2010," she said.

According to her, from India's perspective, the country needs to ensure that this expression of a fresh political commitment does not become a template for a new mandate that detracts from the Bali Action Plan and dissolves the fundamental differentiation in the nature of commitments/actions amongst developed and developing countries as visualized in the BAP.

The Foreign Secretary said India was working in the BASIC coalition, with Brazil, South Africa and China. It was also in close touch with its friends in Africa.

She said the G-77 and China, as the largest grouping of developing countries, was performing an extremely useful role in helping member-states coordinate their approach to climate change negotiations, although there are groups within the G-77 with a very specific perspective, such as the small island states.

"A key objective for India and its coalition partners is to ensure that any further work in the post- Copenhagen phase of negotiations proceeds on the basis of the principles and provisions of the UN Convention, and the Bali Action Plan. As you are probably aware, a conference in Mexico, to be held sometime in the second half of 2010, has been mooted in this connection," Ms Rao added.

While no bilateral meetings have yet been scheduled, it is likely that Dr Singh will meet Mr Obama and Mr Wen during his stay in Copenhagen.

Initially, there were some doubts about whether Dr Singh would attend the conference, but French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whom he had met on the sidelines of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Port of Spain last month, had urged him to be present at the summit so that India's voice could be heard.

Other world leaders, including Mr Obama, are also understood to have requested him to attend the summit.

On December 3, four days before the conference began, India had announced that it would reduce its carbon emission intensity by 20-25 per cent by 2020 from the levels they were at in 2005.

Outlining India's position for the summit, Mr Ramesh had told the Lok Sabha that the decision would prove beneficial for the country.

He had also announced a series of policy measures that the Government planned to take to achieve the planned reduction. These included legislation to provide for mandatory fuel efficiency standards for vehicles by December 2011, a model green building code and amendments to various laws to reduce the energy intensity of industrial activities.

The Minister had also announced that half of the new coal-based power plants that will come up in the future will use clean coal technologies, which will need supercritical and ultra-critical and coal gasification technologies.

He said over and above these steps that it was taking unilaterally, India was prepared to do even more if an equitable and comprehensive agreement emerged from the Copenhagen summit.

Mr Ramesh also took the opportunity to reiterate India's "non-negotiables". He said India would not accept a legally binding emission reduction target. It will also not accept any agreement at Copenhagen that stipulated a peaking year for India's emissions.

He said India would be willing to subject all its mitigation actions which are supported by international finance and technologies to international review, but would not like any such scrutiny for unsupported actions that it undertook on its own. At the same time, he said all the Government's actions would be carried out in a transparent manner.

India's announcement came within days of China announcing a 40-45 per cent cut in its emissions intensity by 2020. Brazil also announced its plans to achieve a 38-42 per cent reduction and Indonesia announced a 26 per cent reduction.

Dr Singh had told the a special session on climate change at CHOGM that India was willing to sign on to an ambitious global target for emissions reduction or limiting temperature increase if these were accompanied by an equitable burden sharing paradigm.

He had said India had repeatedly emphasised the need for the outcome at Copenhagen to be comprehensive, balanced and, above all, equitable. He had said it must be comprehensive in the sense that it must cover all the inter-related components of mitigation, adaptation, finance and technology. He had said this meant that a partial outcome must be resisted and that there must be balance and equal priority given to each of the four components.

"Mitigation is important but cannot take precedence over adaptation which, for many countries represented here, poses a greater challenge. And most important from our perspective, is the need to ensure an equitable outcome corresponding to the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities," he had said.

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