As representatives of 197 countries are in the midst of intense discussions in the German capital of Bonn on controlling climate change, India, China and all developing countries under the G77+China umbrella on Thursday criticised the developed countries for blocking discussions about the current commitments of rich nations to limiting the rise in global temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

On Thursday, the Like-Minded Developing Countries group, which includes India and China, called a press conference to express their disagreement with developed countries on what negotiators call the pre-2020 agenda. In a show of solidarity, they were joined at the last moment by the representative of G77+China group, which represents 137 developing countries. They collectively demanded that the Bonn talks should include discussions on a formal assessment of the pre-2020 agenda – the commitments of developed countries to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and providing finance and green technologies to developing countries by 2020.

Going a step further, the developing countries proposed specific deadlines for developed countries to deliver on two particular commitments. They asked that the second phase of the Kyoto Protocol on limiting emissions be ratified by developed countries by June 2018. They also demanded that the Bonn summit should set a mechanism to ratchet up the commitments of the developed countries for the period up to 2020. This is something they latter had agreed to in 2013 but have failed to do so far.

The Kyoto Protocol of 1997 is the precursor to the Paris Agreement of 2015. It required only developed countries to adopt targets to cut their greenhouse gas emissions. Though the second phase of implementing the protocol began in 2012, the European Union and several other developed countries are yet to ratify this phase to make it operational.

‘Lack of will’

“The developed country parties neither have the will, nor the intentions of taking any actions on the ground,” Majid Shafiepour, the spokesperson for Like-Minded Developing Countries group, told “It has always been just talks, decisions, pledges that aren’t really worthwhile the discussions right now because the entire world awaits actions. We have been badly hit, our economies have been hit, our people have been hit by various weather events, by the droughts, by floods, by hurricanes, serious health emergencies... but the developed countries are only concerned about the economic growth and welfare of their citizens.”

The debate around whether the pre-2020 commitments should be discussed at the Bonn talks cropped up even before the inauguration of the conference, when developing countries found that a discussion on this was missing from the conference programme.

When India, China and Iran protested, Fiji, which is presiding over the conference, said their demand would be considered at informal meetings outside the main discussions of the conference. But on Wednesday night, the US, the European Union and other developed countries closed ranks to oppose the developing countries’ demand.

Closing ranks

This was the first formal intervention from the US to block a demand from developing countries in the climate change negotiations after it announced it would pull out from the Paris Agreement earlier this year. It was also a rare occasion when the European Union stood along with the US to oppose the developing countries’ demand.

“What happened last night, it was maximum of five countries – Australia, Canada, the US, Japan and Norway – plus the EU that indicated that they feel that discussing the pre-2020 goals in the agenda wouldn’t be necessary,” said Shafiepour. “So, these five countries are taking the entire 190-odd different parties to the convention hostage as to not letting this process move over to save...the planet Earth.”

Arun Mehta, one of India’s negotiator, explained that developing countries have placed great emphasis on the pre-2020 agenda because they believe that climate change requires urgent action. “Delayed actions are not going help anyone,” Mehta said. “We can’t really think that the time between now and 2020 is not important and the important time begins only after 2020,” said .”

Ravi S Prasad, another Indian negotiator explained that at negotiations in Warsaw in 2013, participants had agreed on specific actions, such ratifying the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol early and on technology transfers from developed countries to developing countries. He said the demand from all the developing countries was to discuss the pre-2020 commitments and complete the “unfinished” agenda.

“The two timelines which were suggested yesterday,” said Prasad. “We can have a deadline of June 2018 for ratification of the second commitment period by all parties to ensure its coming into force. The second is that we can have submissions from all parties to indicate what actions they have taken on... the Warsaw decisions. If we see this forward movement, there will be a lot of trust and lot of commitment among the parties.”

Support from China

China echoed India’s views. “The Paris Agreement has already been entered into force but it has been five years since the adoption of the Doha amendment and we have just two years left to the year 2020,” said the Chinese negotiator. “This year also the 20th anniversary of the Kyoto Protocol adoption...The best way to commemorate this historical moment is to put the Kyoto Protocol and the Doha amendment into effect.”

Said Walter Schuldt, Chair of the G77+China group: “All that we are asking is to bring the sense of urgency that is also recognised in concrete actions. But the actions that will begin only 2020. Not the actions that begin into one-time exercise. We also need to see where we are right now in terms of implementations [ on developed countries’ past commitments]. And on that front we recognised the gaps. There are gaps in mitigations, there are gaps in financial support and technology transfer.”