Developed nations continuing attempts to divide BASIC group of countries

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Onboard Air India One, Dec.19 (ANI): The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, arrived here on Saturday afternoon, almost six hours after he was originally supposed to land, owing to a continuing stand-off between developed and developing nations in reaching an agreeable outcome on negotiations related to the 15th Conference of Parties (COP-15) climate change deliberations.

Dr.Singh was originally supposed to leave Copenhagen at 7 p.m. local time, but a last minute suggestion by the leaders of the BASIC (Brazil, South Africa, India and China) group of countries to meet for a second round of talks, and also US President Barack Obama's desire to meet with them, delayed his departure to almost 1 a.m. this morning.

Speaking to accompanying media onboard the Prime Minister's special aircraft, sources said that discussions on the outcome of the COP-15 deliberations were still ongoing, and added that the Prime Minister's Special Envoy on Climate Change, Shyam Saran and Minister of State for Environment Jairam Ramesh were told to stay back to help firm up some sort of positive conclusion to the 11-day meeting.

Sources said that even as late as Friday night, the BASIC group still had concerns and reservations on the developed nations consistent demand for international verification of domestic emission cuts as also on the issue of legally-binding emission cuts and mitigation action.

One source said there was an acceptance that "We (developing countries) need to shoulder more obligations, but added that what was seriously objected to was the attempt by developed nations to continuously divide the developing countries, the lesser developed countries (LDCs) and the small island states (SISs), who are presently the worst impacted by climate change.

It was also stated that attempts are being made to "deviate" from the text of the Kyoto Protocol (KP) and the Bali Action Plan (BAP).

Sources said that during the second round of BASIC group talks, the focus was on the core issue of the allegation that not enough was being done by the developing nations to alleviate poverty, and the charge that sustainable development was being pushed aside.

The BASIC group also spent Friday evening reviewing the issue of voluntary action, and it was decided at Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's insistence that all members of this group needed to support the view that there would be "no intrusion of sovereignty".

It was agreed that a temperature rise of up to two degrees Celsius by 2015 could be contemplated, but agreeing to a 50 percent cut on emissions was not possible because the group was obligated to not only safeguard its interests, but also the interests of the LDCs and the SISs.

Commenting on the unscheduled meeting with US President Barack Obama and the American delegation, one source said that Obama wanted to meet the BASIC group leaders either in an individual capacity or together. The BASIC group leaders decided that it was in their interest to present a combined front before the American leadership to get the message of unity across.

"Obama came to us with his aides, including Clinton (US Secretary of State). He said 1Can I join you now? Are you ready to talk with me? If you want me to come back later, I can?' Our Prime Minister and other BASIC group leaders welcomed him to the meeting," said the source.

Another concern among the BASIC group leaders was the possible conversion of environmental protection to trade protection, and this was raised with President Obama and his team.

The United States and President Obama said they recognized the fact that developing nations faced challenges, and reiterated that there was "no intent to impose or impede, but only to help.

However, he (Obama) emphasized that the BASIC countries would have to submit to some sort of mutual international obligations, if the negotiations on climate change were to be taken forward to an agreeable conclusion for all 192 members.

"We are concerned about the review on voluntary action, intrusion of sovereignty, 50 percent cut on emissions. This is not acceptable, not supportable. We can talk of a formulation on voluntary action. We were told by the American delegation that if we don't accept international scrutiny, LDCs and SISs might not get the financial assistance that they require. So, basically, the issue was on the words that could be used in the text. Whether we can talk of assessment, some sort of understanding, whether a common language could be worked out," the source said.

Sources said Obama called for a "conceptual leap, a meeting of minds, legally binding cuts" because that was an issue on which the European countries were very keen about.

In response to this demand, Prime Minister Singh said that leaders of the BASIC group were duty-bound to report on the deliberations before their democratically elected legislatures/parliaments, and that they could not accept or compromise on issues relevant to each of their countries. They were all answerable to their respective parliaments.

The source said that President Obama did say that he had "enormous respect" for Dr. Singh and looked forward to his contribution to the deliberations. By Ashok Dixit(ANI)

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