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BASIC nations say three issues non-negotiable at Cancun climate talks


CANCUN, Mexico, Dec. 6 (Xinhua) -- The so-called BASIC countries -- Brazil, South Africa, India and China -- said Monday that they would not support a deal until a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol had been settled, a fast-track climate change fund had been materialized and a basic agreement had been reached on technology transfer.

"We are conscious of the need for a substantive outcome, but these three things are non-negotiable," said Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, who chaired a joint press conference with his BASIC colleagues.

"The BASIC nations have been meeting in the last few days, among themselves and with regional groups," he said.

The environment ministers are part of the 25,000 government delegates attending the United Nations climate change conference here in an effort to seek ways to reduce the world's greenhouse gas emissions.

The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in Japan in 1997 by major emitting economies, which committed themselves to cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2 percent from their 1990 levels by 2012. However, the U.S. Congress has refused to ratify the protocol.

Japan, Russia and Canada are opposed to post-2012 commitments. And Japan has cited the U.S. failure to ratify the protocol during its first commitment period as a reason for itself not to sign for a second period.

Meanwhile, Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia have said they would not sign any other accords unless developed nations sign on for a second commitment period.

"BASIC nations come to Cancun with sincerity and willingness to work to make Cancun a success," said Xie Zhenghua, head of the Chinese delegation.

Xie said that while the BASIC nations were taking a public stand, their position is one that is held by the bulk of the Group of 77 plus China, a developing nation group.

One of the most problematic issues is the fast-track fund, known as the Green Fund, discussed in last year's climate change conference in Copenhagen.

The fund, proposed in early 2009 by Mexican President Felipe Calderon, was approved with 30 billion U.S. dollars in immediate funding from governments by 2012, followed by an annual 100 billion dollars in long-term financing mainly from the private sector.

"So far the fund has not been fast, it has not started and there is very little financing," Ramesh said, adding that the BASIC nations were clear that the vast majority of the money should not come to them. "The 30 billion was meant for less developed countries, African countries and small island states."

The insistence on the three issues is intended to push negotiations forward, not to ruin them, South African Energy Minister Dipuo Peters said at the same press conference.

"We are very positive about the issues we have identified and we look forward to engaging," Peters said.

Ramesh said that he was particularly disappointed with the United States, even though he was glad to see that President Barack Obama had returned the nation to the main stream of international thinking on climate change concerns.

"The United States is the biggest cumulative emitter, responsible for 26 percent of greenhouse gases from 1850 to 2005," he said. "An agreement without the United States makes no sense."

He said the United States had offered an emission cut of 17 percent by 2020 below 2005 levels, or some 4 percent below 1990 levels.

But such an offer will be hard to achieve as Obama's Democratic Party has lost the control of the House of Representatives to the Republicans. Without legislative support, the United States is unlikely to be able to manage a cut of more than 14 percent below 2005 levels, equivalent to being unchanged versus 1990, Ramesh said.

"By any standards that is deeply disappointing," he said. "We expect the United States to better its reduction commitments and fast-track financing," Ramesh added.

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