Indian minister’s advisor calls for year-long UN climate talks

The UN climate talks should increase the number of negotiating days from around 20 to 150 in order to increase its chances of success, according to an advisor to a senior Indian minister.

Varad Pande, Officer on Special Duty to Jairam Ramesh, the rural development minister and former environment minister says more work is needed to break through the deadlocks.

“We need to make negotiations an ongoing, rather than an episodic, process, with at least 120 to 150 days of active negotiations every year,” Pande wrote in India’s Business Standard.

Negotiators currently meet for two fortnightly sessions in May and November, with the latter the only gathering where binding decisions can be passed.

“This is the only way to rummage through all the gory detail that climate negotiations today involve. This ‘high-intensity’ approach to negotiations needs to be complemented by regular high-level forums where influential political leaders come together, break deadlocks and make firm commitments,” he wrote.

Varad Pande, left, says 120-150 days of negotiations are needed to break the deadlocks faced by the UN climate change talks. (Source: IISD)

Pande is considered to be a very close ally of ousted Indian environment minister Ramesh, who became unpopular with some during his tenure for giving the environment precedence over development on too many issues.

India is enjoying rapid economic development and industrialisation, which some consider to be under threat from climate policy that would make cheap but dirty, energy sources more expensive.

The 2011 climate talks in Durban agreed to begin negotiating a deal on legally binding emission reduction that would include all nations.

Ramesh’s replacement Jayathi Natarajan mounted an impassioned plea for developing countries to be considered differently in the new deal.

Momentum in these talks is flagging as evidenced at the recent round in Doha and there are calls for an injection of urgency into the process.

“The UN Secretary-General’s proposal to have such one such high-level forum in 2014 is a good one, but we need to ensure these are action-oriented events where difficult choices are made, instead of just statesmanlike speeches,” Pande, who says these are his personal opinions and not those of the government, wrote.

“The annual ritual of the United Nations climate change conference, held this year at Doha, Qatar, has concluded after a ‘stoppage time’ ending. It is hard to label the Doha summit as a success or a failure. In fact, in some ways it was both.

“But the climate negotiations will have to do better than the band-aid approach they seem to have been following over the last few years — where little or no progress is made for a whole year, and a weak deal is patched together in the closing hours of the annual conference.”

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