Key points from the BASIC Copenhagen Accord meeting

The world’s most powerful developing countries on Sunday said they would meet the UN’s January 31 deadline on the Copenhagen Accord. Or, specifically, that they intended to “communicate information on their voluntary mitigation actions” by the deadline.

Representatives from the four ‘BASIC’ countries (Brazil, South Africa, India, China) met yesterday in New Delhi to discuss their stance on the Accord, the non-binding agreement that they themselves played a key role in formulating last month in Copenhagen.

It was a mostly positive declaration in terms of progress on climate talks, as the UN was concerned that few countries (four, in fact) have so far signed up to the Accord.

As expected, there were several efforts to show solidarity with the poorer developing nations, after Copenhagen highlighted the disparity of interests between some Group of 77 members.

The BASIC ministers called on developed countries to quickly dispense the $10bn a year in quick-start funding agreed last month, and for small island states and African countries to be the focus of the those funds. It remains to be seen just how quickly this funds transfer can be achieved, given that the funds transfer process has yet to be worked out – but reaching a loose agreement on transferring funds to the developing world was one of the more successful aspects of the Copenhagen talks.

But the four didn’t agree on their own funds transfer to those more vulnerable developing countries, as was hinted last week. In fact according to this Bloomberg report Brazil, which proposed the idea, pointed out that the BASIC countries already gave more than $10bn in ‘support’ a year to Africa, Asia and Latin America. Talks on funds transfer will carry on at the next meeting.

[Incidentally, the G77 is this year led by Yemen. Last year, including for the Copenhagen conference, it was Sudan - another poor, politically troubled country possessing of some oil reserves.]

More worrying was China’s lead climate negotiator Xie Zhenhua commenting that there were ‘some uncertainties’ over the causes of climate change. From the FT:

“There is a view that climate change is caused by cyclical trends in nature itself,” Xie Zhenhua, vice-chairman of China’s National Development and Reforms Commission, told a press conference in New Delhi. “We have to keep an open attitude.”

Mr Xie said later that global warming was a “solid fact” that was already having an impact on developing countries, but that there were still “uncertainties” over the cause of the phenomenon.

“The major reason of the climate change is the unconstrained emissions of developed countries during the industrialisation process. That’s the mainstream view,” he said. “But there are some uncertainties.”

Though he also said these uncertainties shouldn’t stop efforts to combat climate change, and not all BASIC countries agree on the level of uncertainty anyway; South Africa’s Buyelwa Sonjic said it was important to battle misgivings about the science around climate change and its causes.

Finally, the BASIC countries made clear that they wanted post-Copenhagen talks, in the lead-up to another UN conference in Mexico in December, to continue along two tracks – keeping all developing countries under different levels of obligation on emissions reduction.

Related links:

Statement by the BASIC ministers – full text (FT Energy Source, 25/01/10)
Basic meeting may try to heal rift with poorer developing countries (FT Energy Source, 22/01/10)
China vs Tuvalu (FT Energy Source, 11/12/09)

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