“I have called for commitments in an ‘appropriate legal form’, and not a legally-binding commitment…”

By Jairam Ramesh

As you know, I have just returned from the UN Climate Change Conference at Cancun.
As I have mentioned to you in the past, our accountability is to Parliament and I intend to keep Parliament fully informed on our climate change policies and negotiating positions.
Hence I want to take this opportunity to brief you on the major developments at Cancun and their implications for India.
I. Major elements of the Cancun Agreements
All Parties agreed on a set of decisions, known as the ‘Cancun Agreements’, for further
discussion, on the two tracks of the negotiation, namely the Long-term Cooperative Action
(LCA) under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its Kyoto Protocol (KP). The texts of the agreements are available on the homepage of the UNFCCC – www.unfccc.int. The broad highlights of the agreed texts are as follows:
1. Shared Vision for Long-term Cooperative Action: This was a matter of intense
debate, with the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Association of Small Island
States (AOSIS) countries pushing for much more ambitious targets. In the end, a goal
of restricting temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius, with a provision for
review at a subsequent date was agreed upon. Significantly, the agreed final text makes
no mention of either quantitative targets for emission reduction by 2050 or global
peaking year, thus protecting the interests of developing countries. Largely due to
India’s efforts, references to “equity” and “equitable access to sustainable
development” were included in this section as the basis of working towards this goal.
2. Adaptation: A Cancun Adaptation Framework was agreed upon. It exhorts
developing countries to prepare and implement national adaptation plans and at the
same time, calls upon developed countries to provide finance, technology and capacity
building support for the same. It also decides to establish an Adaptation Committee to
promote implementation of adaptation actions.
3. Mitigation Commitments of Developed Countries: Under the Cancun
agreements, developed countries including those that are parties to Kyoto Protocol or
otherwise, will list their economy wide emission reduction targets for the period from
2013 onwards, in a UNFCCC document and implement the targets according to agreed
rules. Developed countries have also agreed to increase the ambition of their targets,
and enhance reporting of their mitigation targets, including their commitments relating
to provision of financing, technology and capacity building support to developing
countries. For the first time, and on India’s insistence, the agreed text calls for
an “international assessment and review” of developed country emission
reduction targets, which means that there will be mandatory in-depth review of
implementation of the commitments by developed countries including assessments by
experts and consultations with developing countries.
4. Kyoto Protocol: At the same time, the parties to Kyoto Protocol have agreed to
continue to work towards finalizing their targets for the second commitment period
(post-2012 period) with the aim to ensure that there is no gap between the first and
second commitment periods of the Protocol.
5. Mitigation Actions by Developing Countries: Under the agreements, the
developing countries will also list their nationally appropriate mitigation actions
(not mitigation commitments or targets) in a document under the Convention,
and implement them with the financial, technological and capacity building
support provided by developed countries for such actions. The text also calls for
“international consultation and analysis” of developing country actions in a
manner that is non-intrusive, non-punitive, facilitative and respectful of
national sovereignty. This will apply to nationally determined actions, implemented
on a voluntary basis in pursuance of the domestic mitigation goal, and reported
through the official national communication of the country concerned. This was a key
area where India played a crucial role in mediating an agreement that was acceptable to
both developed and developing countries.
6. Forestry: The agreement encourages developing countries to undertake actions on
reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, conservation of forest
stocks, and sustainable management of forests (the latter being most relevant to India,
where we are actually increasing our forest stock through sustainable forestry). It
calls upon developing countries to prepare national strategies/plans for the same. The
agreement also asks for full and effective participation of indigenous people
and local communities in developing and implementing these strategies. An
assessment of financial options to support these actions is also to be worked out.
7. Response Measures and Trade: This urges developed countries to ensure that
their climate actions avoid negative consequences on developing countries. On
unilateral trade measures, it notes that measures taken to combat climate change,
including unilateral ones, should not constitute a means of arbitrary or unjustifiable
discrimination or a disguised restriction on international trade. Although the language
is not quite perfect from our perspective, this seeks to address an important concern of
India and other developing countries that climate change should not be used as
an excuse to impose unilateral trade measures on developing countries.
8. Finance: It calls upon developed countries to provide ‘fast start finance’ of USD
30 billion in 2010-12 to developing countries and submit transparent information
regarding the provision of these resources. The Agreements also recognize the need of
providing long term finance by the developed countries and inscribe their commitment
of raising USD 100 billion per year by 2020 for supporting adaptation and
mitigation actions in developing countries. Most importantly, the parties have
decided on the establishment of a Green Climate Fund as the operating entity
of the financial mechanism. This was a long pending demand of developing
countries and represents one of the most notable achievements, following persistent
and protracted negotiations on this issue. The Fund is to be governed by a board of 24
members, equally represented from developed and developing countries. The World
Bank will be the trustee of the fund for the initial 3 years when the fund is set up and
operationalised.
9. Technology Development and Transfer: The agreement decides to establish
a Technology Mechanism for supporting research, development, demonstration,
deployment, diffusion and transfer of technology in the area of mitigation and
adaptation. The Mechanism will be governed by a Technology Executive Committee
with 20 members, 9 from developed countries, and 11 from developing countries, and
its functions will be implemented by a Climate Technology Centre and Network. India
was the key player in drafting the text on the Technology Mechanism.
II. INDIA’S Key contributions at Cancun
India made 5 specific contributions to the final agreed text, in addition to its contribution to the process over the entire period of the Conference.
1. India ensured that for the first time the phrase “equitable access to
sustainable development” found mention in the shared vision text (para
6). This is critical as climate change is largely a problem caused by historical
emissions, and late developers like India need this equitable access to address
their development priorities and to eradicate poverty. The phrase “equitable
access to sustainable development” is superior to the phrase “equitable access to carbon space” which connotes a fundamental “right to pollute” that is seen today as negative and insensitive to the global challenge of climate change.
2. India ensured that the mention of 2015 as a peaking year (para 5) and the
mention of a quantitative target of emissions reduction by 2050 (para 6)
did not find mention in the final text. This is important as such conditionalities
could have imposed emission reduction commitments on developing countries
like India too early and could compromise their development prospects.
3. India’s detailed formulation on international consultation and analysis
(ICA) of developing country mitigation actions in a manner that is non-
intrusive, non-punitive and respectful of national sovereignty was the key input
that broke an important deadlock (paras 60-67) and helped achieve progress on
issues relating to mitigation.
4. It was India that ensured that for the first time, developed country mitigation
actions will be subject to “international assessment and review”, which
means that experts, including those from developing countries, will have the
right to review whether developed countries are living up to their commitments
(paras 44 and 46 (d)).
5. India’s formulation on technology development and transfer (paras 113 to
129) through a technology executive committee and climate technology centre
and networks, formed a critical component of the final text, and a major win for
developing countries.
6. Due to India’s insistent efforts, the parties avoided a decision at Cancun
on the phrase “legally binding agreement”. Instead, the Ad Hoc Working
Group has been requested to “continue discussing legal options” (para 145), with
the aim to reach consensus, if possible, on this issue by the next Conference of
Parties.
III. India’s Major outreach activities at Cancun
In addition to making major contributions to the text, India was visibly and constructively
engaged in the entire process at Cancun, ensuring that we spoke up for our developing country partners, showcased our proactive voluntary actions, pushed the envelope on the intellectual debate, and bridged the gaps between parties. Some significant highlights of India’s outreach efforts at Cancun included the following:
1. India hosted a major side event on the importance of equity and equitable
access in the climate change negotiations. This event was attended to by a full house of
experts, negotiators and civil society, and showcased India’s leadership position on this
key issue.
2. India hosted a press briefing on India’s proactive domestic actions on
addressing climate change. This was very well attended with international media
from all major countries covering the event. Here I highlighted the (i) National
Action Plan on Climate Change; (ii) Indian Network for Comprehensive Climate
Change Assessment; (iii) Expert Group on Low-Carbon Strategy for Inclusive Growth
(iv) activities being undertaken by various state governments; and (v) our regional
initiatives in SAARC and with countries like Nepal, Bangladesh and Maldives.
India acted as the coordinator of the “BASIC” group comprising Brazil, South
Africa, India and China throughout the Conference, and will host the next meeting of
BASIC Ministers in early 2011. Although the BASIC countries had different approaches
on some issues, the group stayed united until the very end, and jointly welcomed the
final agreements.
4. India proactively reached out to other developing countries. It offered
a scholarship programme for capacity building to the Small Island
Developing States (SIDS). India spoke for the Least Developed Countries
(LDCs) and Africa, calling on developed countries to immediately disburse the
promised ‘fast start finance’, even as India had voluntarily declared at Copenhagen that
it will forego its claim to this money in favour of LDCs. India also hosted a lunch for
the SAARC Ministers where shared concerns were discussed.
5. India conducted bilateral meetings with various countries and groups where it
discussed negotiating positions, tried to bridge gaps and identified areas for broader
bilateral cooperation. These included meetings with Japan, Germany, USA, UK,
Australia, France, Qatar, Mexico and groups like EU, Africa, Association of Small
Island States (AOSIS) and LDCs.
6. India also served as an informal ally and facilitator for the host Mexico
in reaching out to countries to promote understanding of positions and reach an
agreement.
7. I also attended a Public-Private Partnership Breakfast meeting hosted by the
Mexican President where I called for the establishment of a CGIAR-type network
of technology delivery institutions in the area of climate change. CGIAR
is the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, and I specifically
mentioned how India’s high-yielding wheat varieties in the 1960s came from one of
the CGIAR institutions in Mexico called CIMMYT (International Maize and Wheat
Improvement Center). This suggestion was enthusiastically endorsed by Professor
Mario Molina, the 1995 Nobel Laureate in environmental chemistry and also by the
President of Mexico.
IV. The issue of legally-binding commitments
At the High-level segment, I made a detailed statement which highlighted India’s efforts on addressing climate change. In this statement I also said that “all countries must take on binding commitments in an appropriate legal form”. This statement has formed the basis for much discussion at home. So I feel that I must clarify what I intended to convey and the context in which this statement was made.
The immediate context of this statement was that there appeared to be a view being pushed by a majority of developing and developed countries at Cancun that all countries must agree to a legally-binding agreement. Most countries, including our BASIC partners Brazil and South Africa, our developing country partners in AOSIS, LDCs, Africa, and four of our SAARC partners (Bangladesh, Maldives, Nepal and Bhutan) shared this view. The only countries opposing this were USA, China, India, Philippines, Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Saudi Arabia and some others. It was therefore important for India to demonstrate that it was not completely oblivious and insensitive to the views and opinions of a large section of the global community.
It is important that a few things are understood about my statement.
First, I have called for commitments in an “appropriate legal form” and not a
legally-binding commitment. This is an important distinction. My statement leaves
open the need for differentiation between Annex I (developed) countries and non Annex I (developing) countries. Annex I commitments could be legally binding with penalties. Non Annex I actions could be purely voluntary and without penalties. Moreover, the reference to an “appropriate legal form” is a very broad one. Indeed even decisions of the Conference of Parties (COP) to the UNFCCC are of an appropriate legal form. Similarly, commitments that our government makes to our Parliament are also, in our view, of an appropriate legal form. In fact, if you recall I had written to you way back on October 5th, 2009 where I had mentioned the idea of introducing domestic legislation that will not contain explicit emission reduction targets but will have implicit performance targets for mitigation and adaptation (such as mandatory fuel efficiency standards by 2011, mandatory energy conservation- compliant building codes by 2012, 20% contribution of renewables to India’s energy mix by 2030 etc.). Many countries like Brazil and Mexico already have such laws and others like China and South Africa are also considering such legislation.
Second, contrary to some misquoted references in the domestic media, I did not make
any commitment on India undertaking absolute emission cuts. India has made it
very clear that while it will undertake voluntary mitigation actions, including reducing the
emissions intensity of its GDP by 20-25% by 2020 on a 2005 reference year, India will not take on any emission cuts or agree to any peaking year for its emissions. There is no change in this position.
Third, as I have clarified repeatedly, a legally-binding agreement is not acceptable to
India at this stage. I made it clear that unless we have clarity on (a) what the substance of such an agreement is, (b) what the penalties for non-compliance are, and (c) what the system for monitoring is, we will not be able to even consider a legally-binding agreement. This position remains unchanged.
As I have stated, due to India’s efforts, the phrase “legally-binding agreement” did not find mention in the text. Instead, a loose reference to “continue discussing legal options” was included.
My effort was to walk the thin line between safeguarding our position while showing a level of sensitivity to the view shared by the majority of countries at Cancun, including many of our developing country partners. I believe we have been able to walk this thin line effectively with this stand. This nuancing of our position will expand negotiating options for us and give us an all-round advantageous standing.
V. CONCLUSION
My constant effort has been to ensure that our negotiating stance on climate change is guided by three principles: (i) the need to protect our economic growth, inclusive development and poverty eradication agenda; (ii) the pursuit of our domestic environmental policies; and (iii) the achievement of our foreign policy objectives, in particular that India be seen as a constructive, solution-oriented player in global negotiations. I believe we have managed to accomplish these three objectives at Cancun.
As you are aware, I have never shied away from a debate in Parliament and I look forward to a detailed discussion on the Cancun Agreements and India’s role in the Budget Session of Parliament. We have nothing to hide, and I remain committed to keeping Parliament fully informed of all our actions and to listening carefully to the views expressed by the Honourable Members.
With regards,
Yours sincerely,
(Jairam Ramesh)
17th December 2010

By Jairam Ramesh

As you know, I have just returned from the UN Climate Change Conference at Cancun.
As I have mentioned to you in the past, our accountability is to Parliament and I intend to keep Parliament fully informed on our climate change policies and negotiating positions.
Hence I want to take this opportunity to brief you on the major developments at Cancun and their implications for India.
I. Major elements of the Cancun Agreements
All Parties agreed on a set of decisions, known as the ‘Cancun Agreements’, for furtherdiscussion, on the two tracks of the negotiation, namely the Long-term Cooperative Action(LCA) under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its Kyoto Protocol (KP). The texts of the agreements are available on the homepage of the UNFCCC. The broad highlights of the agreed texts are as follows:

1. Shared Vision for Long-term Cooperative Action: This was a matter of intensedebate, with the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Association of Small IslandStates (AOSIS) countries pushing for much more ambitious targets. In the end, a goalof restricting temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius, with a provision forreview at a subsequent date was agreed upon. Significantly, the agreed final text makesno mention of either quantitative targets for emission reduction by 2050 or globalpeaking year, thus protecting the interests of developing countries. Largely due toIndia’s efforts, references to “equity” and “equitable access to sustainabledevelopment” were included in this section as the basis of working towards this goal.

2. Adaptation: A Cancun Adaptation Framework was agreed upon. It exhortsdeveloping countries to prepare and implement national adaptation plans and at thesame time, calls upon developed countries to provide finance, technology and capacitybuilding support for the same. It also decides to establish an Adaptation Committee topromote implementation of adaptation actions.

3. Mitigation Commitments of Developed Countries: Under the Cancunagreements, developed countries including those that are parties to Kyoto Protocol orotherwise, will list their economy wide emission reduction targets for the period from2013 onwards, in a UNFCCC document and implement the targets according to agreedrules. Developed countries have also agreed to increase the ambition of their targets,and enhance reporting of their mitigation targets, including their commitments relatingto provision of financing, technology and capacity building support to developingcountries. For the first time, and on India’s insistence, the agreed text calls foran “international assessment and review” of developed country emissionreduction targets, which means that there will be mandatory in-depth review ofimplementation of the commitments by developed countries including assessments byexperts and consultations with developing countries.

4. Kyoto Protocol: At the same time, the parties to Kyoto Protocol have agreed tocontinue to work towards finalizing their targets for the second commitment period(post-2012 period) with the aim to ensure that there is no gap between the first andsecond commitment periods of the Protocol.

5. Mitigation Actions by Developing Countries: Under the agreements, thedeveloping countries will also list their nationally appropriate mitigation actions(not mitigation commitments or targets) in a document under the Convention,and implement them with the financial, technological and capacity buildingsupport provided by developed countries for such actions. The text also calls for“international consultation and analysis” of developing country actions in amanner that is non-intrusive, non-punitive, facilitative and respectful ofnational sovereignty. This will apply to nationally determined actions, implementedon a voluntary basis in pursuance of the domestic mitigation goal, and reportedthrough the official national communication of the country concerned. This was a keyarea where India played a crucial role in mediating an agreement that was acceptable toboth developed and developing countries.

6. Forestry: The agreement encourages developing countries to undertake actions onreducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, conservation of foreststocks, and sustainable management of forests (the latter being most relevant to India,where we are actually increasing our forest stock through sustainable forestry). Itcalls upon developing countries to prepare national strategies/plans for the same. Theagreement also asks for full and effective participation of indigenous peopleand local communities in developing and implementing these strategies. Anassessment of financial options to support these actions is also to be worked out.

7. Response Measures and Trade: This urges developed countries to ensure thattheir climate actions avoid negative consequences on developing countries. Onunilateral trade measures, it notes that measures taken to combat climate change,including unilateral ones, should not constitute a means of arbitrary or unjustifiablediscrimination or a disguised restriction on international trade. Although the languageis not quite perfect from our perspective, this seeks to address an important concern ofIndia and other developing countries that climate change should not be used asan excuse to impose unilateral trade measures on developing countries.

8. Finance: It calls upon developed countries to provide ‘fast start finance’ of USD30 billion in 2010-12 to developing countries and submit transparent informationregarding the provision of these resources. The Agreements also recognize the need ofproviding long term finance by the developed countries and inscribe their commitmentof raising USD 100 billion per year by 2020 for supporting adaptation andmitigation actions in developing countries. Most importantly, the parties havedecided on the establishment of a Green Climate Fund as the operating entityof the financial mechanism. This was a long pending demand of developingcountries and represents one of the most notable achievements, following persistentand protracted negotiations on this issue. The Fund is to be governed by a board of 24members, equally represented from developed and developing countries. The WorldBank will be the trustee of the fund for the initial 3 years when the fund is set up andoperationalised.

9. Technology Development and Transfer: The agreement decides to establisha Technology Mechanism for supporting research, development, demonstration,deployment, diffusion and transfer of technology in the area of mitigation andadaptation. The Mechanism will be governed by a Technology Executive Committeewith 20 members, 9 from developed countries, and 11 from developing countries, andits functions will be implemented by a Climate Technology Centre and Network. Indiawas the key player in drafting the text on the Technology Mechanism.

II. INDIA’S Key contributions at Cancun
India made 5 specific contributions to the final agreed text, in addition to its contribution to the process over the entire period of the Conference.

1. India ensured that for the first time the phrase “equitable access tosustainable development” found mention in the shared vision text (para6). This is critical as climate change is largely a problem caused by historicalemissions, and late developers like India need this equitable access to addresstheir development priorities and to eradicate poverty. The phrase “equitableaccess to sustainable development” is superior to the phrase “equitable access to carbon space” which connotes a fundamental “right to pollute” that is seen today as negative and insensitive to the global challenge of climate change.

2. India ensured that the mention of 2015 as a peaking year (para 5) and themention of a quantitative target of emissions reduction by 2050 (para 6)did not find mention in the final text. This is important as such conditionalitiescould have imposed emission reduction commitments on developing countrieslike India too early and could compromise their development prospects.

3. India’s detailed formulation on international consultation and analysis(ICA) of developing country mitigation actions in a manner that is non-intrusive, non-punitive and respectful of national sovereignty was the key inputthat broke an important deadlock (paras 60-67) and helped achieve progress onissues relating to mitigation.

4. It was India that ensured that for the first time, developed country mitigationactions will be subject to “international assessment and review”, whichmeans that experts, including those from developing countries, will have theright to review whether developed countries are living up to their commitments(paras 44 and 46 (d)).

5. India’s formulation on technology development and transfer (paras 113 to129) through a technology executive committee and climate technology centreand networks, formed a critical component of the final text, and a major win fordeveloping countries.

6. Due to India’s insistent efforts, the parties avoided a decision at Cancunon the phrase “legally binding agreement”. Instead, the Ad Hoc WorkingGroup has been requested to “continue discussing legal options” (para 145), withthe aim to reach consensus, if possible, on this issue by the next Conference ofParties.

III. India’s Major outreach activities at Cancun

In addition to making major contributions to the text, India was visibly and constructivelyengaged in the entire process at Cancun, ensuring that we spoke up for our developing country partners, showcased our proactive voluntary actions, pushed the envelope on the intellectual debate, and bridged the gaps between parties. Some significant highlights of India’s outreach efforts at Cancun included the following:

1. India hosted a major side event on the importance of equity and equitableaccess in the climate change negotiations. This event was attended to by a full house ofexperts, negotiators and civil society, and showcased India’s leadership position on thiskey issue.

2. India hosted a press briefing on India’s proactive domestic actions onaddressing climate change. This was very well attended with international mediafrom all major countries covering the event. Here I highlighted the (i) NationalAction Plan on Climate Change; (ii) Indian Network for Comprehensive ClimateChange Assessment; (iii) Expert Group on Low-Carbon Strategy for Inclusive Growth(iv) activities being undertaken by various state governments; and (v) our regionalinitiatives in SAARC and with countries like Nepal, Bangladesh and Maldives.
India acted as the coordinator of the “BASIC” group comprising Brazil, SouthAfrica, India and China throughout the Conference, and will host the next meeting ofBASIC Ministers in early 2011. Although the BASIC countries had different approacheson some issues, the group stayed united until the very end, and jointly welcomed thefinal agreements.

4. India proactively reached out to other developing countries. It offereda scholarship programme for capacity building to the Small IslandDeveloping States (SIDS). India spoke for the Least Developed Countries(LDCs) and Africa, calling on developed countries to immediately disburse thepromised ‘fast start finance’, even as India had voluntarily declared at Copenhagen thatit will forego its claim to this money in favour of LDCs. India also hosted a lunch forthe SAARC Ministers where shared concerns were discussed.

5. India conducted bilateral meetings with various countries and groups where itdiscussed negotiating positions, tried to bridge gaps and identified areas for broaderbilateral cooperation. These included meetings with Japan, Germany, USA, UK,Australia, France, Qatar, Mexico and groups like EU, Africa, Association of SmallIsland States (AOSIS) and LDCs.

6. India also served as an informal ally and facilitator for the host Mexicoin reaching out to countries to promote understanding of positions and reach anagreement.

7. I also attended a Public-Private Partnership Breakfast meeting hosted by theMexican President where I called for the establishment of a CGIAR-type networkof technology delivery institutions in the area of climate change. CGIARis the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, and I specificallymentioned how India’s high-yielding wheat varieties in the 1960s came from one ofthe CGIAR institutions in Mexico called CIMMYT (International Maize and WheatImprovement Center). This suggestion was enthusiastically endorsed by ProfessorMario Molina, the 1995 Nobel Laureate in environmental chemistry and also by thePresident of Mexico.

IV. The issue of legally-binding commitments
At the High-level segment, I made a detailed statement which highlighted India’s efforts on addressing climate change. In this statement I also said that “all countries must take on binding commitments in an appropriate legal form”. This statement has formed thebasis for much discussion at home. So I feel that I must clarify what I intended to convey and the context in which this statement was made.

The immediate context of this statement was that there appeared to be a view being pushed by a majority of developing and developed countries at Cancun that all countries must agree to a legally-binding agreement. Most countries, including our BASIC partners Brazil and South Africa, our developing country partners in AOSIS, LDCs, Africa, and four of our SAARC partners (Bangladesh, Maldives, Nepal and Bhutan) shared this view. The only countries opposing this were USA, China, India, Philippines, Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Saudi Arabia and some others. It was therefore important for India to demonstrate that it was not completely oblivious and insensitive to the views and opinions of a large section of the global community.

It is important that a few things are understood about my statement.

First, I have called for commitments in an “appropriate legal form” and not alegally-binding commitment. This is an important distinction. My statement leavesopen the need for differentiation between Annex I (developed) countries and non Annex I (developing) countries. Annex I commitments could be legally binding with penalties. Non Annex I actions could be purely voluntary and without penalties. Moreover, the reference to an “appropriate legal form” is a very broad one. Indeed even decisions of the Conference of Parties (COP) to the UNFCCC are of an appropriate legal form. Similarly, commitments that our government makes to our Parliament are also, in our view, of an appropriate legal form. In fact, if you recall I had written to you way back on October 5th, 2009 where I had mentioned the idea of introducing domestic legislation that will not contain explicit emission reduction targets but will have implicit performance targets for mitigation and adaptation (such as mandatory fuel efficiency standards by 2011, mandatory energy conservation- compliant building codes by 2012, 20% contribution of renewables to India’s energy mix by 2030 etc.). Many countries like Brazil and Mexico already have such laws and others like China and South Africa are also considering such legislation.
Second, contrary to some misquoted references in the domestic media, I did not makeany commitment on India undertaking absolute emission cuts. India has made itvery clear that while it will undertake voluntary mitigation actions, including reducing theemissions intensity of its GDP by 20-25% by 2020 on a 2005 reference year, India will not take on any emission cuts or agree to any peaking year for its emissions. There is no change in this position.
Third, as I have clarified repeatedly, a legally-binding agreement is not acceptable toIndia at this stage. I made it clear that unless we have clarity on (a) what the substance of such an agreement is, (b) what the penalties for non-compliance are, and (c) what the system for monitoring is, we will not be able to even consider a legally-binding agreement. This position remains unchanged.
As I have stated, due to India’s efforts, the phrase “legally-binding agreement” did not find mention in the text. Instead, a loose reference to “continue discussing legal options” was included.
My effort was to walk the thin line between safeguarding our position while showing a level of sensitivity to the view shared by the majority of countries at Cancun, including many of our developing country partners. I believe we have been able to walk this thin line effectively with this stand. This nuancing of our position will expand negotiating options for us and give us an all-round advantageous standing.

V. Conclusion
My constant effort has been to ensure that our negotiating stance on climate change is guided by three principles: (i) the need to protect our economic growth, inclusive development and poverty eradication agenda; (ii) the pursuit of our domestic environmental policies; and (iii) the achievement of our foreign policy objectives, in particular that India be seen as a constructive, solution-oriented player in global negotiations. I believe we have managed to accomplish these three objectives at Cancun.

As you are aware, I have never shied away from a debate in Parliament and I look forward to a detailed discussion on the Cancun Agreements and India’s role in the Budget Session of Parliament. We have nothing to hide, and I remain committed to keeping Parliament fully informed of all our actions and to listening carefully to the views expressed by the Honourable Members.

With regards,

Yours sincerely,

(Jairam Ramesh)

17th December 2010

(It is the unedited text of a letter written to Members of Parliament. Photo by PIB)