BASIC countries set to shape international climate action

26 January 2010

The first official meeting of the BASIC group of countries (China, India, Brazil, South Africa) concluded in New Delhi yesterday.  The meeting underlined that this new negotiating group is here to stay and likely to be pivotal in shaping future international climate talks.

The Group, which played a central role in negotiating last month's 'Copenhagen Accord', set out a range of positions in a joint statement. 

In keeping with the long-held position of all developing countries, the Group reaffirmed the primacy of the UNFCCC negotiating process and underlined its commitment to conclude a new climate agreement at the next UN climate conference in Mexico in December.   This will reassure the UN's chief climate official, Yvo de Boer, who last week tried to play down suggestions that other forums were better suited to agreeing action on climate change.

The Group stated that the 'Copenhagen Accord provided the high-level political guidance for achieving any agreement, but also made clear that the negotiations had to be conducted under the 'two-track Bali Roadmap process, which failed to conclude its work in Copenhagen.   To this end, the Group called on Denmark, as the ongoing COP President, to convene at least five meetings for the negotiating groups before Mexico.  This is the first formal request from any country or group or countries since Copenhagen, and is an indication of how proactive the BASIC group intends to be.

No mention was made of other processes, such as the G20 or Major Economies Forum (MEF), which many developed countries have spoken about as alternatives to the complex UNFCCC process.   This underlines that important differences still exist amongst key countries as to how best to move climate talks forward.

The Group also called on developed countries to fulfil their commitment to provide $10 billion in short term funding as soon as possible for least developed countries, small island states and African countries.   By reiterating that this financing is for the most vulnerable developing countries, the BASIC group will have calmed any lingering concerns developed countries may have  about where this funding should go. 

The statement also noted that each country would "communicate information on their voluntary mitigation" under the Accord by the Jan 31st deadline agreed in Copenhagen.  The statement is ambiguous as to whether such information will definitely include the voluntary targets announced by each BASIC country in the lead-up to COP-15.  The inclusion of these earlier commitments will be important in calibrating the overall ambition of pledges under the Accord.

Ministers have also agreed to establish regular quarterly meetings of the BASIC countries.  While stating that they will work with the G77 in the lead up to Mexico, it seems highly unlikely that this wider developing country group will retain the same influence in light of the BASIC groups emergence.

Perhaps most positively, the statement concludes by noting the BASIC countries desire to use the group not only for negotiating purposes but also to cooperate on mitigation and adaptation and enhance "South-South" cooperation on climate change generally.   This underlines how the BASIC countries see themselves as leaders on climate change, unencumbered by any need for developed country support.

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