Climate Summit 2017

Bonn talks: US and EU oppose assessments of their current climate change commitments

Developed countries do not want to discuss whether they are on track to fulfil their promises to cut emissions and provide funds to developing nations by 2020.

The US, European Union and other developed countries closed ranks at the Bonn climate summit on Wednesday, opposing formal scrutiny of how they have performed so far against their commitments to combat climate change by 2020.

This runs contrary to the demand of all groups of developing countries, without exception, that the Bonn talks should a include a discussion on assessing what negotiators call the pre-2020 agenda – the commitments of developed countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide finance and green technologies to developing countries by 2020.

The position of the developed countries ensured that a consensus could not be reached on an issue that has roiled the Bonn negotiations from the first day of the conference on Monday, when developing countries found that the issue had been dropped from negotiations at the highest forum at the summit, called the Conference of Parties.

Till Wednesday, developed countries been silent as Fiji, which is presiding over the Bonn talks, had on the inaugural day of the summit swiftly removed the topic from the official agenda.

At the time, Fiji said that there was no agreement among member-countries on whether the issue should feature on the agenda for the summit at all. Consequently, it said, the pre-2020 discussions would be postponed for the week. It asked Morocco, the country that had previously presided over the negotiations, to hold informal conversations on the possibility of including the topic in the second week of the formal talks.

China, India and other members of the Like-Minded Developing Countries protested, asking countries that oppose a discussion on the pre-2020 agenda to come out and say so. But Fiji did not allow this.

Developed countries come out in the open

On Wednesday, when the informal consultations were held, the US shot down the idea of bringing the pre-2020 agenda back to the table. “We don’t see the need for this item,” it said. “We already have a very important and busy schedule. Everyone in the negotiations rooms complaints about lack of time. There has to be a point where we have to stop adding agenda items. We do not see consensus here, simply because it is being taken up and has been taken up for quite some time.”

The European Union initially said it could prove that it had achieved its pre-2020 obligations. But then it added that discussing this under the formal negotiations at the highest level was not acceptable. Canada, Japan, and Norway also opposed the reintroduction of the pre-2020 agenda. Australia, speaking on behalf of the Umbrella group, which also includes US, Japan and Canada, reiterated this.

These blocks said that various elements of their pre-2020 commitments were being discussed at lower and disaggregated levels in the negotiations and that would suffice.

Developing countries unite

China had pointed out on Monday that the assessment and stock-taking at the highest level was essential to understand if developed countries had actually delivered against their promises. It had found support from India and other nations that are also members of the Like-Minded Developing Countries group.

On Wednesday, most developing country groups came together to support this position of the Like-Minded Developing Countries – a rare situation. “If we are to construct the post-2020 bridge, we will need pre-2020 on the agenda,” said Maldives on behalf of Alliance of Small Island States. Also backing the demand were the G77+China group, the Africa group, the Arab group and the Independent Association of Latin America and the Caribbean.

India listed out a series of promises on emission reduction and provision of finance by developed countries that they had failed to live up to. It noted that even the second phase of Kyoto Protocol (which requires developed countries to reduce emissions against fixed targets by 2020) had not even been ratified by enough rich countries to come into force before the due date. It pointed out that developed countries were in fact supposed to enhance their targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions before 2020 and despite many technical exercises that had shown no results.

India warned that if developed countries were not willing to be assessed and come through on their existing commitments for the pre-2020 period, future discussions on enhancing commitments would merely be “talkshops”.

China endorsed India’s arguments. “If we don’t take action now, when are we going to take action and who will take action?” it asked.

The Africa group said that the developed countries had been unable to meet their targets to reduce emissions before 2020 to keep the global temperature rise capped below 2 degree Celsius from the pre-industrial era. It said the pre-2020 agenda was part of the package agreed in France in 2015 when the Paris Agreement was stitched up for the post-2020 period and these and all previous decisions binding developed countries to act before 2020 should be honoured.

Venezuela backed this up. “This Conference of Parties is an opportunity to send a message to the world that we cannot wait until 2020 to act,” it said.

Brazil said it could not understand why any group of countries would resist having the pre-2020 issues up for negotiations when they all said they valued its importance. “Rejecting this item’s inclusion makes us wonder and question what is behind all that and makes us wonder if the ambition post-2020 is all lip service,” it said.

With the breach between the developing and developed countries so wide, Morocco, which was chairing the session, finally closed it at 8 pm. It asked member-countries to try to find a solution and promised to hold another informal meeting soon.

We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

Relying on the power of habits to solve India’s mammoth sanitation problem

Adopting three simple habits can help maximise the benefits of existing sanitation infrastructure.

India’s sanitation problem is well documented – the country was recently declared as having the highest number of people living without basic sanitation facilities. Sanitation encompasses all conditions relating to public health - especially sewage disposal and access to clean drinking water. Due to associated losses in productivity caused by sickness, increased healthcare costs and increased mortality, India recorded a loss of 5.2% of its GDP to poor sanitation in 2015. As tremendous as the economic losses are, the on-ground, human consequences of poor sanitation are grim - about one in 10 deaths, according to the World Bank.

Poor sanitation contributes to about 10% of the world’s disease burden and is linked to even those diseases that may not present any correlation at first. For example, while lack of nutrition is a direct cause of anaemia, poor sanitation can contribute to the problem by causing intestinal diseases which prevent people from absorbing nutrition from their food. In fact, a study found a correlation between improved sanitation and reduced prevalence of anaemia in 14 Indian states. Diarrhoeal diseases, the most well-known consequence of poor sanitation, are the third largest cause of child mortality in India. They are also linked to undernutrition and stunting in children - 38% of Indian children exhibit stunted growth. Improved sanitation can also help reduce prevalence of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Though not a cause of high mortality rate, NTDs impair physical and cognitive development, contribute to mother and child illness and death and affect overall productivity. NTDs caused by parasitic worms - such as hookworms, whipworms etc. - infect millions every year and spread through open defecation. Improving toilet access and access to clean drinking water can significantly boost disease control programmes for diarrhoea, NTDs and other correlated conditions.

Unfortunately, with about 732 million people who have no access to toilets, India currently accounts for more than half of the world population that defecates in the open. India also accounts for the largest rural population living without access to clean water. Only 16% of India’s rural population is currently served by piped water.

However, there is cause for optimism. In the three years of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, the country’s sanitation coverage has risen from 39% to 65% and eight states and Union Territories have been declared open defecation free. But lasting change cannot be ensured by the proliferation of sanitation infrastructure alone. Ensuring the usage of toilets is as important as building them, more so due to the cultural preference for open defecation in rural India.

According to the World Bank, hygiene promotion is essential to realise the potential of infrastructure investments in sanitation. Behavioural intervention is most successful when it targets few behaviours with the most potential for impact. An area of public health where behavioural training has made an impact is WASH - water, sanitation and hygiene - a key issue of UN Sustainable Development Goal 6. Compliance to WASH practices has the potential to reduce illness and death, poverty and improve overall socio-economic development. The UN has even marked observance days for each - World Water Day for water (22 March), World Toilet Day for sanitation (19 November) and Global Handwashing Day for hygiene (15 October).

At its simplest, the benefits of WASH can be availed through three simple habits that safeguard against disease - washing hands before eating, drinking clean water and using a clean toilet. Handwashing and use of toilets are some of the most important behavioural interventions that keep diarrhoeal diseases from spreading, while clean drinking water is essential to prevent water-borne diseases and adverse health effects of toxic contaminants. In India, Hindustan Unilever Limited launched the Swachh Aadat Swachh Bharat initiative, a WASH behaviour change programme, to complement the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. Through its on-ground behaviour change model, SASB seeks to promote the three basic WASH habits to create long-lasting personal hygiene compliance among the populations it serves.

This touching film made as a part of SASB’s awareness campaign shows how lack of knowledge of basic hygiene practices means children miss out on developmental milestones due to preventable diseases.


SASB created the Swachhata curriculum, a textbook to encourage adoption of personal hygiene among school going children. It makes use of conceptual learning to teach primary school students about cleanliness, germs and clean habits in an engaging manner. Swachh Basti is an extensive urban outreach programme for sensitising urban slum residents about WASH habits through demos, skits and etc. in partnership with key local stakeholders such as doctors, anganwadi workers and support groups. In Ghatkopar, Mumbai, HUL built the first-of-its-kind Suvidha Centre - an urban water, hygiene and sanitation community centre. It provides toilets, handwashing and shower facilities, safe drinking water and state-of-the-art laundry operations at an affordable cost to about 1,500 residents of the area.

HUL’s factory workers also act as Swachhata Doots, or messengers of change who teach the three habits of WASH in their own villages. This mobile-led rural behaviour change communication model also provides a volunteering opportunity to those who are busy but wish to make a difference. A toolkit especially designed for this purpose helps volunteers approach, explain and teach people in their immediate vicinity - their drivers, cooks, domestic helps etc. - about the three simple habits for better hygiene. This helps cast the net of awareness wider as regular interaction is conducive to habit formation. To learn more about their volunteering programme, click here. To learn more about the Swachh Aadat Swachh Bharat initiative, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Hindustan Unilever and not by the Scroll editorial team.