Friday, June 15, 2012

Developing world holds key to keep Rio principles alive

By Nitin Sethi

With Prime Minister Manmohan Singh slated to attend the Rio summit on sustainable development, the government has prepared the grounds to help 'friendly' Brazil but not accept the adverse conditions that Europe is keen to impose at the event, which culminates with the meeting of heads of state from June 20 to 22.

Sources in the Indian team warned that while Brazil would be looking for a 'successful' and substantial results from the high-profile meeting, there is a risk of the existing Rio principles being junked unless the developing world sticks together as it has done so far.

"The fundamental principles for all international environmental negotiations were set up under the Rio Declaration 20 years ago. The balanced terms, which have become the basis for talks like on climate change, had all come out of these Rio principles. Now, the developed countries want to discard those principles and completely take away the very framework of environmental negotiations," an Indian negotiator for the Rio summit told Times Of India.

The pitched battles for a final declaration by the negotiators from more than 180 countries have been on through the year, and are reaching a crescendo as the summit dates draw closer. Wide disagreements largely remain over two issues - thematic areas and sustainable development goals (SDGs).

The developed countries, India believes, are putting the horse before the cart since they are pushing for an elaborate list of environmental concerns where nations need to take time-bound actions against fixed targets. This concern is being highlighted even as they want to remove the differential between rich and developing countries. The G77 and China have stuck together to demand that the large principles of how SDGs will function be agreed to before the world negotiates over areas for action.

This would ensure that the responsibility to meet the global targets is distributed, based on respective capabilities of the countries and not by playing blind to their socio-economic needs.

Observers say a large consensus is emerging that the SDGs might be agreed to in principle and the details worked out over the next three years. However, in such diplomatic negotiations countries often tend to hold the cards close to their chest till the end.

"It's instructive how the developed world is pushing for a rewrite of the climate convention as well as the Rio principles by 2015. It suggests that they want an overhaul of all existing international environmental regulations. One must not be fooled that the developed world is looking at this as economic instruments to be moulded to their best interests," a negotiator told Times of India.