India at climate talks with tiny team, without key negotiators

Written by Kirtika Suneja | New Delhi | Updated: Nov 30 2011, 06:21am hrs
With only 30 members, India's delegation to the Durban climate talks is the smallest among all key negotiating nations. China is taking a 150-strong delegation while Australia has 40-plus. Further, several key climate negotiators like Chandrashekhar Dasgupta and Prodipto Ghosh are absent in the delegation led by environment ministry.

The talks, which kicked off on November 28, will be on till December 9.

The Jayanthi Natarajan-led delegation does not have many old hands either. For Natarajan, this will be the first exposure to the annual conference of parties (COP), while environment secretary T Chatterjee is attending his first COP as team leader. Last year, he was part of the team led by outgoing secretary Vijai Sharma. Among veterans are JM Mauskar, special secretary and RR Rashmi, joint secretary. Mauskar and Rashmi have been part of the delegation for several years.

The ministry too has witnessed a difference in styles between Natarajan and her predecessor Jairam Ramesh. Ramesh handled everything on his own while Natarajan follows a cooperative approach by taking the ministry with her for the talks. She takes advice from everyone and then takes a conservative view, said a ministry official.

But such is the sensitivity that no one outside the government including sectoral think tanks were willing to go on record on the change in the composition. Between Cancun and Durban, Indias stance has undergone a change too, with Natarajan taking a more hawkish line.

While Ramesh departed from his prepared Cancun text last year saying India was ready for legally binding emission cuts a move the country has since vehemently resisted Natarajan has clearly stated that issues of trade, adaptation and equitable access will have to be sorted out first.

For the Durban COP, we look forward to the operationalisation of Cancun decisions and ensuring that some of the issues relating to the Bali Roadmap are not lost sight of. Issues related to finance, technology transfer, adaptation and REDD+ are key deliverables for Durban, Natarajan said.

Recently, India submitted a proposal to the secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to include three contentious issues of unilateral trade measures, intellectual property rights and equitable access to sustainable development for inclusion in the provisional agenda for the talks. The secretariat is tasked with steering the annual meetings.

A ministry official added: Our position is very clear as we are looking at the operationalisation of Cancun decisions. Everyone has forgotten the promises made and they are pushing for legal controls on us. Agreeing to legal mitigation targets is suicidal.

New Delhi will avoid international pressure on taking mitigation targets and is instead keen on adaptation. Also, unlike the last two summits, India has been insisting on greater binding commitments from developed countries before beginning to discuss the developed countries demand for mandatory action by all nations on limiting global warming.

There is not much talk about adaptation. Developed countries should take some steps for financing adaptation measures. What has happened to the adaptation committee that was formed after the Cancun talks he asked.

However, the talks being held in South Africa may pose a problem as the host country is part of the BASIC (Brazil, South Africa, India and China) group and will have to be impartial towards the negotiations.