Tiny Tuvalu drove a wedge in the bloc of developing nations at UN climate talks on Wednesday by calling on China, India and other emerging giants to take on legally binding commitments to slash carbon dioxide pollution.
Through an arcane diplomatic manoeuvre, the Pacific archipelago cracked a diplomatic axiom that has prevailed since the UN climate convention came into being in 1992: rich countries caused global warming, and it was their responsibility to fix it.
On the third day of the December 7-18 negotiations, Tuvalu proposed opening discussions on a “legally binding amendment” to the Kyoto Protocol that would set targets for the reductions of greenhouse gas emissions for major emerging economies, starting in 2013.
But the move was blocked by China, India, Saudi Arabia and other large developing countries.
“The constraints would mostly remain on developed countries but also, partly, on big developing economies as well,” Taukiei Kitara, head of Tuvalu’s delegation, told AFP.
Kitara acknowledged that the proposal constituted the first serious breach in the up-to-now united front of the “G-77 plus China”, a bloc of 130 developing nations.
“We know the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol is not complete and we want to create an impulse for a stronger commitment,” Kitara said, referring to the landmark treaty that imposes emissions cuts on rich nations up to 2012.
Today more than half of global carbon pollution comes from developing countries, led by emerging giants China, India and Brazil, and the proportion is set to rise as their high-population economies grow.
The 42-member Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), including Tuvalu, and the bloc of mainly African Least Developed Countries, have rejected the widely held goal of keeping global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius as inadequate.
Only a cap of 1.5 degrees compared with pre-industrial times would give these nations a chance of fighting off rising seas or crippling drought, they say.