Time to act on arresting climate change, not argue about level playing fields: PM

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Port of Spain, Nov.28 (ANI): Describing climate change as a challenge of global dimensions that deserved a global and a collaborative response, Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh on Friday told participants at the CHOGM Summit 2009 that it was unfortunate that global discourse on this issue continued to be enmeshed with arguments about maintaining economic competitiveness or level playing fields.

In an intervention during a special session on the issue of climate change, Dr. Singh warned: "Climate change is becoming the pretext for pursuing protectionist policies under a green label. This would be contrary to the UNFCCC and a violation of the WTO as well. India and other developing countries will strongly resist this."

"We are only days away from the convening of the 15th Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen. India has repeatedly emphasized the need for the Copenhagen outcome to be comprehensive, balanced and above all, equitable," he added.

"It must be comprehensive in the sense that it must cover all the inter-related components of mitigation, adaptation, finance and technology. This means we should resist a partial outcome. Furthermore, there must be balance and equal priority given to each of he four components. Mitigation is important, but cannot take precedence over adaptation which, for many countries represented here, poses a greater challenge," Dr. Singh said.

He added: "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."

India, he said, is willing to sign on to an ambitious global target for emissions reductions or limiting temperature increase, "but this must be accompanied by an equitable burden sharing paradigm."

"We acknowledge the imperative of science but science must not trump equity. Climate Change action based on the perpetuation of poverty will simply not be sustainable," he insisted.

Welcoming the participation of Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen in the CHOGM deliberations, Dr. Singh assured him that the Indian delegation would play a constructive and positive role in supporting his efforts to secure a successful outcome.

He also acknowledged that the presence of French President Nicholas Sarkozy would add quality to the climate change deliberations.

"We have benefited from his insights and his wisdom and, in particular, his concern over the challenges posed to developing countries by climate change," the Prime Minister said.

Singh also acknowledged the key role played by UN Secretary-General Ban ki Moon in raising awareness of the dangers posed by climate change to humanity, saying India agreed with his assessment that the time for action is now.

Singh said: "I wish to express India's complete solidarity with the sentiments expressed by several leaders from small island developing states and our brothers from Africa. They are the least responsible for climate change and yet are the most vulnerable to its impact. Their very survival is at stake. We appreciate their concern because India, too, has extensive island territories and low lying coastal plains, which are vulnerable to sea-level rise ad extreme climatic events."

Sharing India's perspective on the forthcoming Conference of Parties in Copenhagen, Singh said that the multilateral negotiations under the UNFCCC were proceeding on two parallel tracks for the past two years.

"The first track derives its mandate from the Bali Action Plan adopted by consensus in December, 2007. Its mandate for the multilateral negotiations is very clear and unambiguous. We are to work towards an Agreed Outcome at Copenhagen which would represent enhanced implementation of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The Bali Action Plan calls for enhanced implementation specifically in respect of mitigation, adaptation, finance and technology," he said.

He said it was necessary to enhance implementation in these respects because the provisions of the UNFCCC have barely been implemented and the threat of climate change has become more compelling.

He, therefore, warned that if the outcome at Copenhagen diminishes rather than enhances the implementation of the UNFCCC in respect of the specific components of mitigation, adaptation, finance and technology, it would "represent a serious setback, no matter how we seek to characterize this result."

Commenting on the view given by some quarters that due to the limited amount of time available, the aim for a political outcome rather than a legally binding outcome, Dr. Singh said that India was of the view that "We should not pre-empt the Copenhagen negotiating process. Whatever time is still available to us before the High Level Segment meets from December 16, should be used to achieve as much convergence as possible."

"If the consensus is that only a political document is feasible then we must make certain that the post-Copenhagen process continues to work on the Bali mandate and the UNFCCC continues to be the international template for global climate action. We must avoid any lowering of sights," he added.

As far as the second track in the multilateral negotiations - the Kyoto Protocol track-was concerned, the Prime Minister said the protocol would not expire in 2012 as was being thought in some quarters, rather, 2012 would mark the end of the first commitment period for developed country parties to fulfill their legally binding obligations to reduce their economy-wide emissions by a specific quantified figure.

He said there was a need for developed countries to sign on to more significant obligations in the second commitment period commencing in 2013, as despite the efforts of the developing country parties to the Protocol, no progress has been achieved in fulfilling the mandate of the Working Group on Kyoto Protocol, which has been meeting for the past three years.

"The attempts by some countries to dispense with the Kyoto Protocol altogether has generated avoidable misgivings and has been strongly resisted by all developing countries without exception. We hope that a legally valid instrument to which we too are parties, will not be set aside in a cavalier manner. This will undermine credibility in any future legally binding instrument," Dr. Singh said.

India, he said, has adopted an ambitious National Action Plan on Climate Change with eight National Mission covering both mitigation and adaptation.

"We have not made their implementation conditional upon obtaining international support. However, we can certainly do more if there is a supportive global regime. Each of the National Missions, including those on renewable energy, enhancing energy efficiency and expanding forest cover, are platforms on which we would be happy to pursue cooperative partnership with sister Commonwealth countries," he added.

He said that New Delhi welcomes British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's recommendation to mobilise at least 100 billion dollars by 2020 for supporting climate change action in developing countries and the priority he has given to the needs of Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States. By Smita Prakash (ANI)

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