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Two months after climate talks, U.S. makes a volte face

Priscilla Jebaraj

NEW DELHI: Two months after being party to an agreed resolution at the U.N. climate change talks in Copenhagen, the United States seems to disown the decision.

In December, the conference decided that a Long-term Cooperative Action (LCA) text would be worked out and presented for adoption at the next summit. The U.S. was party to that decision.

However, in its submission to the U.N. last week, the U.S. claims that “it was not agreed that the LCA texts would be the basis of any future negotiation.” Instead, it wants the Copenhagen Accord, a political agreement which was not even adopted at the summit, to be the basis of future negotiations.

Indian negotiators say the submissions by various countries to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change outline the key battle lines being drawn as the talks resume in April.

The U.S. attempt to sneak in the word “scrutiny” (to describe international monitoring of voluntary attempts by developing countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions) was thwarted by India, as The Hindu reported on Sunday. However, the U.S. view of which text will form the basis of future negotiations could cause India more worry.

The U.S. submission says: “The Copenhagen Accord achieves a number of landmark outcomes that…provide a basis for an agreed outcome in Mexico,” where the next major summit will be held in December 2010. It downplays the texts developed by the LCA working group over two years of multilateral talks, saying: “Significantly, it was not agreed that the LCA texts would be the basis of any future negotiation.”

This has no relation to reality, according to senior Indian negotiator Prodipto Ghosh. “The formal COP [conference of the parties] decision at Copenhagen extended the mandate of the LCA working group to enable it to present its outcome for adoption at Mexico,” he points out. “Therefore, it is not correct to say that. The COP did agree to the LCA texts.”

So what about the Copenhagen Accord, on which the U.S. wants future talks to be based? “It was not even adopted by the conference. It was only taken note of,” said Shyam Saran, the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy on Climate Change, while addressing the European Business Group last week. “It’s a political document with valuable content because it represents a broad consensus at a very high level. It is a valuable input, but it must go into the multilateral negotiation process now. Otherwise, it has no legitimacy or operationalisation,” he said, echoing what India’s submission to the U.N. said. Most developing countries, including China and Brazil, agreed strongly with that view.

“This will be a major dispute once we sit down for negotiations again,” says Mr. Ghosh. As countries begin down the road to Mexico, the most basic issues are at stake once again.

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