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India demands 2015 agreement be equally binding on adaptation and mitigation

At multiple closed door meetings running in parallel at Lima India demanded that the issue of adaptation be pegged at legal parity with the concerns of emission reduction targets in the 2015 climate change agreement, which is to be signed in Paris.

The move coordinated with other developing countries, including China, was to prevent the developed world from forcing only the issue of mitigation (reducing emissions) be the focus of the 2015 agreement and other issues – which are of greater interest to developing countries – be pushed in to less onerous decisions post-2015.

The climate change talks often refer to what are called four pillars – mitigation, finance, adaptation and technology. While mitigation sets up the headline targets for how much action the countries need to take to cut emissions the other three put up demands largely against the developed world to provide the resources to poor countries to carry out those emission-reducing actions. To varying degrees the developed world has pushed at Lima that the other three pillars be treated as less important than mitigation, easing the obligations on them in the new global climate regime.

Speaking on the issue of adaptation India said, “When we say balance, it is not only political parity with mitigation – it is total parity, be it financial flow or allocations, legally binding status, technology transfer or sense of urgency and commitments.” India along with others called for a long-term global goal for adaptation which should have both “qualitative and quantitative targets. This was strongly opposed by rich countries including the US and the EU.

India also backed the demand of the most vulnerable countries that the issue of Loss and Damage should be given adequate separate space in the 2015 agreement. The issue refers to demand from extremely poor countries that they should be compensated for the inevitable damage caused by lack of action to reduce emissions by the world. The US had drawn a red-line against the idea last year and the EU too blocked progress on it. On day four at Lima the US along with countries such as Norway and Canada again argued against the issue.

Similar battles to ensure strong legal mandate for adaptation in the Paris agreement were being fought by India along with many other developing countries in another room at the same time. In this room, the co-chairs for negotiations on the nature of 2015 agreement had proposed that decisions on adaptation be seen merely as politically equal to mitigation but not legally as binding. This idea is supported by developed countries as it turns their obligations to provide finance and technology in to less onerous political announcements. India stepped in to formally submit that the parity be not just political but also legal. In other words that obligations across the range of issues of countries be legally at par.

“They want us to take targets to reduce emissions under the new agreement that are legally binding but they want their obligations to provide the resources to poor countries, as required under the convention to be just a political statement. No developing country will accept this imbalance that the developed country parties want and the co-chairs have introduced in to the negotiations at Lima,” said an Indian negotiator explaining the differences.

“Right now the co-chairs, meant to be neutral guides for the talks, are either overtly or covertly pushing just one option in different parts of the negotiations – of mitigation being the primary focus. We all know who wants this,” said a delegate who is leading on the adaptation issue at Lima for an African country.  This is a big-ticket concern at Lima and likely to be resolved only with political intervention when the ministers arrive over the weekend.

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