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.

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“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.