Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Climate change alliance crumbling

Financial Times -

Cracks emerged on Tuesday in the alliance on climate change formed at the Copenhagen conference last week, with leading developing countries criticising the resulting accord.

The so-called BASIC countries – Brazil, South Africa, India and China – backed the accord in a meeting with the US on Friday night, and it was also supported by nearly all other nations at the talks, including all of the biggest emitters.

But on Tuesday the Brazilian government labelled the accord “disappointing” and complained that the financial assistance it contained from rich to poor countries was insufficient.

South Africa also raised objections: Buyelwa Sonjica, the environment minister, called the failure to produce a legally binding agreement “unacceptable”. She said her government had considered leaving the meeting.

“We are not defending this, as I have indicated, for us it is not acceptable, it is definitely not acceptable,” she said.

There was even harsher criticism from Andreas Carlgren, environment minister of Sweden, current holder of the rotating European Union presidency, who proclaimed the Copenhagen accord “a disaster” and “a great failure”.

These responses contrasted with praise of the accord from India and China, and may presage problems for the United Nations in keeping the fragile alliances formed in Copenhagen together. The UN wants to sign a legally binding treaty by the end of 2010, but will struggle if countries repudiate the accord.

However, Todd Stern, US special envoy for climate change, noted that more than 100 countries had backed the accord, including the EU, Australia, Japan, the African Union and the Alliance of Small Island States.

China hit back at claims from the UK and other developed countries that it vetoed two key targets in the accord, and thus scuttled a more ambitious deal. Jiang Yu, a foreign ministry spokeswoman, called criticism from Ed Miliband, the UK’s climate secretary, “plainly a political scheme” to provoke disagreement among developing countries.

The accord focused on three key issues: greenhouse gas emissions cuts, from developed and developing countries; a global target on limiting temperature rises; and financial help from rich to poor countries.

India applauded the outcome. Jairam Ramesh, environment minister, told India’s parliament on Tuesday: “The Basic group has emerged as a powerful force in climate change negotiations.”

Despite welcoming the accord, Mr Ramesh conceded it was only a “very, very small step forward”.