Indian delegation hunkers down for another night of talks

The Indian delegation hunkered down for another night of talks here in Durban where the climate change negotiations, scheduled to wrap up on Friday, are spilling into Sunday.

Negotiators here from both developed and developing countries gave guarded replies on whether a deal could be brokered at the 17th round of climate talks. At this point, they said, the ongoing discussions could swing both ways.

The Indian delegation here said that they were waiting for the next drafts to see whether their concerns had been addressed. Observers expressed concern that the talks have lost steam because of the lengthy delay.

Many of the ministers as well as negotiators from different countries have already left. The plenary hall on Saturday night was half-empty. Negotiators joked that the absence of parties was both a good and bad situation to be in.

It is unlikely, however, that the talks would extend beyond Sunday afternoon. Some negotiators blamed the South African government for mismanaging the conference, which has led to the two-day spill.

On Saturday, texts on different issues were still being drafted and discussed. For instance, differences on the Green Climate Fund were still being fine-tuned. The Fund, which will provide USD 100 billion a year from 2020 to developing countries to combat climate change, has seen progress during the talks.

Negotiators expressed optimism that the design of the Fund could get finalised here before the talks closed.

One negotiator from a developing country, however, described it as a ‘lame’ Fund because the developed world had not shown the money.

India, meanwhile, is pushing for a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol. Under the 1997 Protocol, 37 developed countries accepted legal obligations to reduce carbon emissions during a first commitment period, which expires next year.

Some countries like Japan and Canada are withdrawing from the treaty citing it ineffective because it leaves out the bulk of carbon emission produced by China, India and the United States. The EU is willing to sign up for a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol only if emerging economies agree to a legally binding treaty that will be signed by 2015 and come into force by 2020—called the European Union Roadmap.

The central question of the talks is whether India, China and the US will sign up to the EU Roadmap. While India has been described as stumbling block in the talks, it continues to stress the role of equity and that it’s overriding priority is poverty eradication.

Alf Wills, South Africa's lead negotiator, expressed optimism a solution could be brokered in the time left. "We're there," he said, before heading into a meeting. Other countries expressed reservations.

A developing country negotiator sarcastically asked why it should be called the EU Roadmap when the discussions were being held in South Africa. Speaking for the African Group, Seyni NAFO said that the EU Roadmap did not address two main problems facing the talks. "We have an ambition gap and a finance gap," he said. "The roadmap doesn't solve those."

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