Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

China, India must heed call of the times

By Suhit K. Sen (China Daily) Updated: 2013-01-22 07:42

Doha has never been hospitable for contentious North-South dialogue. The negotiations on climate change that signed off in the Qatari capital in December 2012 have proved that again. And, of course, it is difficult to forget that the negotiations on trade liberalization held under the auspices of the World Trade Organization in Doha remain deadlocked even after about a decade.

The 18th Conference of the Parties (COP 18) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change proved once again that reaching a globally sanctioned agreement remains all but impossible. We shall not go over the old ground in detail, though it must be mentioned that the virtual refusal of the developed world to honor the letter and spirit of the Kyoto Protocol remains the toughest sticking point. This brings us to the two important questions: Who are the deal-breakers and who are going to suffer the most from the broken attempts to seal an agreement?

For a long time now - but most virulently since the negotiations in Copenhagen in 2012 - China and India have been stigmatized as the most recalcitrant among the negotiators. By extension the guilt is imputed to the entire developing world. This is because Beijing and New Delhi, along with the dispensations in Rio de Janeiro and Johannesburg, have been especially intransigent in their position that the two fundamental principles of the Kyoto Protocol - historical responsibility and equity - continue to be honored.

In addition, the developing world has stuck fast to its demand that commitments made under the Bali Road Map on transfer of green technologies and funds from the North to the South be executed. Needless to say, they haven't been till date.

So are Beijing and New Delhi, along with most of the developing world, which actually translates as most of the world, the guilty parties, while the developed world led by the United States is the avatar of sweet reasonableness put, unfairly, upon?

The simple truth is that the developing world has been the deal-breaker for almost two decades. The US, of course, is the primary culprit. It refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol even after practically the whole world ratified it. When Barack Obama became US president, he held out the promise that Washington would take giant steps to reduce emissions but even the baby steps his administration took were ruthlessly shot down by Congress. At Doha, the US chief negotiator refused to even countenance a more stringent emissions regime because, as he put it, it did not have a domestic constituency.

Europe had been more reasonable till recently, at least for public consumption. But even as it made commitments on emissions reduction, first, it did not deliver. Later, it made commitments on transferring technology and funds only to renege all over again. Over the past few years, Europe has been taking a tougher line close to that of the US.

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