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UN climate talks race to complete climate-saving draft

Todd Stern

Le Bourget (France) : India and US are working in a “constructive way” for a climate deal that is comfortable to both, a top American official has said, as negotiators from 195 nations today race to secure a blueprint that will form the base of the most complex global accord ever attempted.

As the high-stake climate talks here enters its sixth day, negotiators appeared confident that some kind of deal will be reached before next weekend and they will be able to avert a repeat of 2009 Copenhagen summit — that failed spectacularly.

The negotiations have made little concrete progress due to sharp disagreements on most issues, including financing to developing nations and transfer of technology.

However, US special envoy for climate change Todd Stern said: “India and US have a very strong history of working collaboratively. That is going on right now,” he said.

Stern said he had four to five meetings with Indian counterparts in the last one week and both nations are working “quite intensively in a business and constructive way”.

“I understand where they are coming from and they (India) understand where we are coming from. The art that goes on here is to try to find solutions that are both effective and both sides can go home and be comfortable,” he said.

His statement came in the backdrop of Secretary of State John Kerry’s remark ahead of the talks here on the outskirts of Paris that India will a “challenge”.

A weak agreement remains the greatest danger for the Paris talks as the summit now enters its final week. Ministers from around the world will descend on Paris on Monday to try to transform the blueprint into a binding deal that can cap the rampant emissions of greenhouse gases and slow global warming.

Scientists warn that the planet will become increasingly hostile to mankind as it warms, causing rise in sea levels and extreme weather patterns completely contrast to present times.

But to slow the climate change requires a rapid shift to clean energy: mainly moving away from burning coal, oil and gas for energy.

India is expected to become the world’s biggest importer of coal by 2020 as it seeks to meet its energy requirements. India’s national climate plan, submitted ahead of this meeting, suggests a significant role for coal going forward.

While India has been targeted for expanding its coal usage, New Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment said focusing only on coal and India was an “unnecessary distraction” and creating “bad blood” at the conference.

The green body called it a “well planned campaign”. A campaign to bring the narrative that India is going to burn the world with coal is the “only negative counter narrative” but it will not help, it said.

“We are disconcerted with the language being used here. Focusing on only coal and only India is an unnecessary distraction. It is creating a lot of bad blood in Paris,” said CSE deputy director general Chandra Bhushan.

“It looks like a well-planned campaign to ensure that the issue of carbon budget where one needs to take into account the historical responsibility of nations (on emissions) and equity issue in the climate debate here is being treated as obstruction.”

Hitting out at the US and other developed nations, Bhushan said coal is being used and will continue to be used in both developed and developing nations.

“Coal is a major source of power sector in both developed and developing countries. The availability of gas in India and China is low, we have coal and we use it,” he said.

Bhushan said coal usage in the US in 2014 was more than what it was in 1990. The US consumes more fossil fuel than ever before in history, he said.

Another green advocacy group, Greenpeace has dismissed India’s portrayal as a possible “spoiler” at the negotiations.

It said India can play a “heroic” role at the Paris climate talks, adding that the country was paying a price for something it was not responsible for.

In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo also expressed sympathy with those affected by the floods in Chennai.

“Climate change was not made in India, but the price is being paid in India. Could the grounds for a solution now be laid by India? Greenpeace and civil society stands with India in demanding accountability from the major polluters,”he said.

“We recognise that richer countries are still not doing enough. But if India moves, in the process forcing richer countries to move too, then it will not just be campaigners like me who will be grateful, but billions of people not yet born.”

Participants have said that the negotiations are too slow for a December 11 deadline. But Such deadlines have been ignored earlier, with negotiators often deliberating through the night to get an accord to limit rising global temperatures this century to no more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

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