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Brazil: rich nations owe more to combating global climate change

3 October 2012

Brazil: rich nations owe more to combating global climate change

Major emerging economies' obligations to cut emissions under a climate change agreement should not be the same as those of rich countries, Brazil's chief negotiator said (reports Point Carbon).

Brazilian Ambassador Luiz Alberto Figueiredo Machado told Reuters during last week's UN General Assembly that Brazil is committed to working toward a global pact to cut emissions in both developed and developing nations as agreed at last year's climate talks in Durban. But Figueiredo said that agreement should adhere to the UN's principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities," a line between developing and developed countries drawn in 1992 that enabled countries such as Brazil, China and India to escape mandatory carbon cuts, which the Durban summit supposedly eliminated.

The BASIC negotiating bloc (Brazil, South Africa, India and China) stressed the point at a joint meeting in Brasilia last week to harmonize their position for the next round of negotiations in Doha, Qatar, which begin next month.

An agreement is to be formalized by 2015 and to take effect by 2020.

The Ambassador said that the distinction between developed and developing countries is necessary if the issue of fossil fuel subsidies is to be addressed in a future climate agreement. In 2009, G20 leaders agreed to phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies by 2020. They reiterated the pledge at the UN conference on sustainable development in Rio de Janeiro earlier this year. Figueiredo said the subsidies issue would need to be addressed in a way to recognize that some developing countries cannot immediately ban them because they have given their populations access to modern forms of energy.

Comment

It is disappointing to see the "common but differentiated" principle re-emerge in the run up to COP-19 in Doha, following its apparent elimination during COP-18 in Durban. There is a danger that reopening this discussion could delay agreement on an ‘all countries’ global deal to solve climate change. Agreement was originally supposed to take place in 2009 during COP-15 in Copenhagen. Any delay beyond 2015 would be catastrophic for the world’s climate and would make the cost of climate action much more expensive, both in terms of mitigation and adaptation.

The Ambassador is probably right that the distinction between developed and developing countries is necessary if the issue of fossil fuel subsidies is to be resolved. However, the previous definition of what constitutes a ‘developing country’ places Singapore in the same category to Bolivia (for example), and therefore is somewhat dated.

We will be following the next round of UN climate talks closely and will report on the impact COP-19 on the global carbon markets. 

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