China, India Push Rich Countries to Move First on Climate Change

China and India are stepping up pressure on wealthy countries to move first on fighting global warming, saying the earliest industrialized nations are the most to blame for rising temperatures.

Speaking at talks involving 190 nations that aim to forge a new treaty to limit greenhouse gas emissions, the developing nations said their richer counterparts should provide more details on a pledge to boost climate aid to $100 billion a year and on how they will cut their own emissions before the poorer countries are required to set their own targets.

“We think we are the weaker side,” said Xie Zhenhua, the head of China’s delegation at United Nations climate talks in Warsaw. “They need to fulfill these commitments. They have to provide a timetable and also the size of their contribution. They should have a very clear signal to society.”

The comments indicate the scale of the challenge negotiators face in forging a treaty by 2015 that could replace the Kyoto Protocol, the only international pact limiting fossil fuel emissions. While richer nations led by the U.S. and European Union want all countries to make cuts together, those classed as developing want the industrial nations to move first.

“We first want to see what the mitigation pledges of the developed nations are,” Indian Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan said at a briefing alongside Xie. “We first want to see what happens to the pledges in terms of mitigation, what is to be done. We would like to know where we stand.”

Treaty Talks

The remarks turned up the political tension at the two-week meeting, which is due to conclude tomorrow. The conference is aiming to put in place the first building blocks of a treaty that would come into force in 2020.

Two years ago, the envoys agreed that their next pact should apply to all countries, breaking down the division between industrial and developed nations that applied under the Kyoto pact. The 1997 agreement negotiated in Japan set greenhouse gas limits for richer nations but left developing countries to make voluntary contributions.

“It is a looming issue with respect to these negotiations,” Todd Stern, the U.S. special envoy on climate change, said in Warsaw.

He and the EU have proposed ways forward that would end the division between rich and poor states while preserving the principle agreed in 1992 that action should be differentiated between nations.

Work Plan

The Warsaw meeting seeks to put in place a work plan on how to reach an accord in 2015. That requires a timetable for how and when pledges to reduce greenhouse emissions are submitted.

Talks in Copenhagen in 2009 to agree to a similar sort of treaty crashed without an accord partly because of bickering over the specific pledges, so the envoys are seeking to find a way to get the work done before the 2015 talks begin.

“Climate change affects us all, but it is a fact that the poor are the most vulnerable and have the least capacity to act,” South African negotiator Alf Wills said at a briefing in Warsaw. “It’s incumbent on all countries to make a fair contribution toward solving this problem.”

Brazil amplified its call for a process that would count the historical emissions of nations since 1850 to help set targets, saying the rich countries created the problem of global warming and ought to fix the damage.

“How can you have new commitments in the future if you cannot understand what happened in the past?” Brazilian Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira said in an interview in Warsaw. “It’s easy to mobilize developing countries and emerging economies to be part of a new commitment, but we can’t forget what happened in the past.”

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