India is pushing a global emissions monitoring system in Cancun talks that could become the centerpiece of a compromise with the United States if other developing countries sign on. Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh is said to expect a "quid pro quo" from the United States to make the deal work, new documents show.Source: Lisa Friedman, E&E reporter
In proposing a system that the United States and China might agree upon, Ramesh in
no uncertain terms told U.S. climate envoy Todd Stern and Deputy National Security
Adviser Michael Froman that money and technology assistance to developing countries
must be part of any deal on formulating a transparent system. Moreover, he said,
extending the 1997 Kyoto Protocol beyond its expiration date in 2012 is a key
element to any agreement.
"Let me also say that without a firm commitment to have a second commitment period
for the Kyoto Protocol and improved mitigation pledges from the USA, the
[transparency] framework I am suggesting simply will not fly," Ramesh wrote.
The letter to Stern and Froman, obtained by ClimateWire, was part of a package
Ramesh sent to Washington when climate negotiators representing the major global
warming polluting countries met in mid-November. Ramesh was not able to attend, but
his plan to help iron out differences between the United States and China on
transparency had already been making the rounds.
Analysts in Cancun, Mexico, this week for an annual round of U.N. climate talks said
Ramesh's proposal has achieved some momentum and could help move talks between the
United States and China forward. As a member of the small group of emerging powers
going by the acronym BASIC that helped craft the Copenhagen Accord, India holds
increasingly important sway.
An effort to remove a sticking point
"I'm not sure if Ramesh's thing is what solves this, but the fact that he's trying
to put forward a proposal that bridges the gap is positive. He's been in this game
for a while, trying to figure out how to break down some of the barriers," said
Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists.
"I think it will be hard for the Chinese not to accept a proposal from a major
partner in the BASIC grouping," added another longtime observer of the climate
talks. Doing so, the expert said, would "isolate" China, something the country hopes
How to establish a system for use by developing countries to monitor, report and
verify their emission cuts has emerged as the most contentious issue in the talks
and the main sticking point between America and China. China is resisting
international oversight of steps it takes to reduce carbon emissions, and the United
States has flatly refused to help mobilize hundreds of billions of dollars in
climate finance to poor and vulnerable countries until it gets some commitments from
China on transparency.
"Each side is reluctant to give things without getting them," said Michael Levi, an
energy and environment fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
"For the United States, it feels like most of the game is 'give,' and transparency
is one place they can get," he said. China, for its part, doesn't see what the
United States -- with no climate bill in sight and a more conservative Congress that
is unlikely to ratify any new treaty -- could give in return for a concession on
But beyond the horse-trading, there's also a substantive need for transparency, from
the United States' point of view, particularly if a legally binding treaty is some
years off, he said.
No 'punitive implications'
"The U.S. philosophy is that when you do deals that are not legally binding,
transparency is the only thing you've got to connect commitments with public and
political pressure. Transparency makes follow-through more likely," he said. But for
China, where little information is made public within the country, much less to
outside governments, "this is not easy territory."
Enter Ramesh, India's charismatic environment leader, who has pushed his own country
to move forward on climate change and taken serious criticism for it.
Under his plan, a global monitoring system would be constructed "on the strict
understanding that it is a facilitative process for transparency and accountability,
and that it will not have any punitive implications of any sort." Countries would do
their own reporting to the United Nations, and a panel of experts chosen by a
variety of countries would review the submissions.
The proposed system would be applicable to all countries that emit more than 2
percent of global greenhouse gases, according to a Q&A Ramesh provided. But, he
said, there will still be a distinction between developed and developing nations.
Industrialized countries like the United States will report on the progress of their
emission reduction commitments, while developing countries will report on their
mitigation actions -- a slight distinction, but an important one.
But even in proposing the solution, Ramesh said he believes the United States is
"making too much of a heavy weather" out of the transparency issue.
What can the U.S. give?
"To my mind, it is not as contentious or complicated as it is being made out to be,
once we are agreed that it will not be intrusive, that it will respect national
sovereignty and that it will not undermine the [U.N. Framework Convention on Climate
Change] and the Bali Action Plan."
Ailun Yang, head of climate and energy for Greenpeace China, said the question now
is whether China will accept the ideas and what the United States is willing -- or
able -- to give in return.
"We see already that China is taking steps to improve its data transparency, so this
is not something that is technically impossible for China to do. It's more that
China feels very strongly that if China will give this compromise, they can't figure
out what they can get from the U.S. in return," she said.
The actual monitoring system proposal doesn't actually require much new from
industrialized countries. But, Yang noted, the "quid pro quo" Ramesh asks for in his
opening letter -- particularly, stiffer mitigation targets from the United States --
isn't likely to be met.
"The reading I have is that Ramesh wants to share with people his ideas, but he also
wants to put conditions on it, and he wants to make those conditions pretty high. He
must know that [the demands] are impossible," she said.
Added Levi, "This is a fast-moving discussion. If the Indian proposal is something
that the United States feels comfortable with, at least as a step forward, and India
can sustain it, that will put a lot of pressure on China to say yes. If China does
say yes, that will put a lot of pressure on the United States [and] on a host of