COP8—Delhi Climate Conference

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  • by Anup Shah
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October 23, to November 1 2002 saw some 180 countries converging in New Delhi for the Eighth Conference of Parties (COP-8) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Government delegates, representatives from inter-governmental and non-governmental organisations, media and business all attended the conference. The meeting's aim was to see the formulation of the "Delhi Declaration".

On this page:

  1. Little progress so far
  2. Rich countries turn the debate around to poor countries
  3. More Information

Little progress so far

The COP meeting started in the context of little progress on climate negotiations. The past year or two has seen a key nation, the U.S. pull out of Kyoto, while various countries have increased their carbon emitions.

As summarized1 by John Gersham, of Foreign Policy in Focus, "Thus far 96 countries have ratified Kyoto, but the Protocol requires 55 countries plus countries representing 55% of industrialized country emissions ratify the treaty before it can enter into force. Without the U.S., Kyoto will not be ratified unless Russia joins. During the recent World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov stated that Russia intends to ratify "in the very near future," which now appears to be sometime in the first half of 2003. Canada's Prime Minister Jean Chretien also announced his intention to put the Kyoto Protocol before parliament for ratification, leaving Australia as the only industrialized country aside from the U.S. that has stated that it will not ratify. The EU and Japan have already ratified the treaty, along with most Central and Eastern European countries and many developing countries, including Brazil, China, and India."

It seems that little is being done on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. A news article from Outlook India points out (October 25, 20022) that in recent years greenhouse gas emissions had actually "gone up by 18.2 per cent in Australia, it was 19.6 per cent in Canada and Japan 11.2 per cent. The [United Nations] figures also showed that it had gone up in countries like Netherlands, Norway and Spain" and "in Saudi Arabia ... by 12.58 per cent."

The same article describes a divide between various industrialized countries and developing nations. Some industrialized countries are accused of not being committed to meeting emissions reductions they have said they will, while some developing countries are accused by industrialized countries (as per the above article) of "only indulging in rhetorics in the global effort to reverse the climate change".

Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) an NGO based in India, as well as being sharply critical of the politics of the rich nations (the developed countries, or the "north") has also been quite chastising of the G77 bloc of developing countries, when it comes to the COP8 negotiations:

Southern leaders miserably and continuously fail their people. We watch amazed and horrified as the victims of climate change keep pleading for funds from the culprits in the climate negotiations, as if they were beggars. As developing countries fight each other to sell off the rights of their future generations for peanuts under the CDM [Clean Development Mechanism], vying to provide the industrialised world with the cheapest way to buy their way out of emission cuts! One can only marvel at the ingenuity of Northern leadership when it comes to protecting their national economic interests by drawing on somebody else's expense account, and at the extreme stupidity of Southern leaders who allow the situation to degrade. Again and again and again and again, in negotiation after negotiation.

Southern Leaders: NO IDEA3, Centre for Science and Environment, October 30, 2002

The U.S. has been strongly criticized4 for years of going counter to the Kyoto process, and attempting a bilateral approach, while implying primarily economic concerns to not address climate change via the Kyoto process. One of the fears touted has been loss of jobs, though it has been countered by some who point out that having to deal with climate change would result in the creation5 of millions of jobs. (Side NoteJobs may be the cited fear by business interest to gain popular support, though profit margins may be the real fear. See the other pages in this web site's section on climate change for more on such aspects.)

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Rich countries turn the debate around to poor countries

During the negotiations, a common theme appeared to be some of the rich nations trying to push the idea of developing countries committing to reduction targets. (Side note on why developing countries are not currently bound to reducing emissions As discussed in the negotiations6 and Climate Justice7 pages on this site, one of the main international agreed principles on addressing climate change issues has been the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. That is, it has been acknowledged that the rich nations have been far more responsible for decades of greenhouse emissions and contribution to human-induced climate change than the developing countries. Many have been doing so since the Industrial Revolution. As a result, the climate change negotiations have been focused on rich countries to accept this responsibility and make appropriate reduction in emissions. At the same time, developing countries are to move towards sustainable development and other means to reduce emissions, but without compromising their chances for development. Developing nations therefore, are not subject to reduction targets at this stage, as it is recognized as unfair. (See the other two pages mentioned above for more details on this.)

CSE however, has been quite scathing on the apparent hypocrisy, or slight of hand, in rich countries trying to turn the negotiations around and putting emphasis and onus on poor countries, while not having shown much commitment to change themselves:

Developing countries are worried, with good reason, that they will be dragged into discussions, and eventually negotiations, to take on commitments that exceed those agreed upon in UNFCCC. Throughout CoP-8, developed countries kept up intense pressure on developing countries' commitments through repeated insinuations in speeches and statements.

Countries such as Denmark and Australia were blunt. The head of the Australian delegation said in the Round Table session, "What was needed was a 50-60 per cent reduction by the end of the century, and for this all countries need to take action, including developing countries." A delegate from Denmark said, "Discussions on what will happen after 2012 has to start, and some developing countries need to start thinking of engaging in measures to mitigate greenhouse gases (GHGs)."


Of course, developing countries had an ace up their sleeve, too. Developed countries could show leadership by meeting their commitments first. To begin with, they could ratify the protocol. Wasn't it ironic that countries such as Australia, which hadn't even ratified the protocol, were demanding developing countries to take on commitments?

Developed countries are also yet to meet their commitments on financing and technology transfer. The Special Climate Change Fund and the Least Developed Countries Fund is yet to be made operational. "Access to technology for renewable energy will also help check the emissions of developing countries. I point this out because developed countries are so concerned about the emissions of developing countries," stressed Emily Massawa, a delegate from Kenya.

Although there is a need to review commitments for future commitment periods, the process should start with developed countries. ... It does seem premature to ask countries that do not even have adequate resources to meet their basic human needs to deal with climate change by taking on commitments.

After 2012; diplomatic hell breaks loose right now8, Climate Justice, Centre for Science and Environment, November 1, 2002

As CSE comments9 in another report, "Denmark, currently president of the European Union, announced yesterday [October 31, 2002] that developing countries would not get any money for adapting to climate change until they start discussing reduction commitments." This, CSE implied, also amounts to blackmail, especially when the rich nations are not meeting their own commitments first.

As with previous climate change negotiations, political agendas and interests have appeared to prevent much of substance coming from this convention.

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More Information

For additional details, analysis, research, reporting and news on this event as well as background you can visit the following, which are just a sampling of the environment web sites out there:

  • Official U.N. site for COP 810
  • From the Delhi-based Center for Science and Environment:
    • Climate change events11 section provides a number of articles
    • Equity Watch12 is a special section on their site with various articles, analysis and commentary.
  • Heat is On-line13 web site, by journalist and author, Ross Gelbspan, looks at the climate crisis, the politics and possible ways forward.
  • Climate Action Network14 is a global network of over 287 NGOs working on climate change issues. They have news articles and publications on their site.
  • TERI at COP 815 from Tata Energy Research Institute provides a number of articles and perspectives
  • The Pew Center on Climate Change16 provides a number of reports and updates
  • Climate Change Linkages17 from the International Institute for Sustainable Development web site

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  • by Anup Shah
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