US avoids ruffling Indian feathers ahead of climate summit

30 November 2015

The United States appears careful not to be confrontational with India ahead of the Paris climate conference, after New Delhi reacted sharply to Secretary of State John Kerry's statement earlier this month that India would be a ''challenge'' in negotiations.

A State Department spokesperson refused to elaborate on what the Secretary of State meant by 'challenge' despite repeated attempts by The Hindu for comment, and instead chose to underscore that the US and India were partnering in combating climate change.

During an online conference with reporters last week, US Special Envoy on Climate Change Todd Stern also ignored the request for an explanation on Kerry's statement but repeatedly mentioned China as a good example that developing countries must emulate.

Stern said developing countries must take up more responsibility, including in financing mitigation efforts. President Barack Obama is scheduled to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Paris on Tuesday.

In an e-mailed statement to The Hindu, a State Department spokesperson said, ''We are partnering with India on responsible energy development. India is a strategic partner that has one of the largest economies in the world, and it recognises the critical importance of increasing energy security, reducing emissions, and improving resilience in the face of climate change.

''We maintain a robust program of cooperation in this area, including the highly successful US-India Partnership to Advance Clean Energy (PACE). We are expanding our policy dialogues and technical work on clean energy and low emissions technologies. This cooperation strengthens our bilateral relationship, enhances economic growth in both countries, and promotes the development of new and innovative technologies and products to address our shared challenges.''

In a potential dilution of the principle of differentiated responsibilities, Stern explained how Paris would mark a departure from the Kyoto agreement. ''Well, what I mean by saying that this is not Kyoto is…What was a distinguishing feature of Kyoto is that all of the new obligations were only directed at developed countries, so it was really a developed country agreement with developing countries on the sidelines. That doesn't work anymore.''

The US would push for what Stern described a ''hybrid'' approach to an agreement, of which, processes and rules would be binding but targets themselves would not be. The U.S position is that binding targets would stop countries from committing to ambitious targets.

The US would also pitch for expanding the donor base, ''the number of parties who are prepared to contribute financing to poor countries,'' and would seek more private investments. The onus of attracting such private investment would be on developing countries that should ''create the enabling environment,'' according to Stern.

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