Boys sit watching street cricket as emissions billow from smokestacks in Badarpur, India. Photographer: Bloomberg
Boys sit watching street cricket as emissions billow from smokestacks in Badarpur, India. Photographer: Bloomberg

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pledged to double funding to countries struggling to adapt to climate change to more than $800 million, part of an effort to close differences with nations such as India over who must act to halt global warming.

The announcement at the United Nations global warming talks in Paris was accompanied by criticism of the view promoted by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, that developing nations should be able to avoid many of the rules on verifying emissions reductions that will apply to industrialized ones.

“We have to know that everybody is also being held to the same system of transparency about the progress they’re making,” Kerry said in a speech at the UN talks on Wednesday. He sought to build bridges with India, acknowledging that the U.S. “recognizes our role in creating some of this problem” but said that “No one country can solve this problem or foot the bill alone. That’s not rhetoric. It’s just physically impossible to do so.”

The remarks brought to the surface divisions at the climate conference involving 195 nations. The discussions due to conclude on Dec. 11 are aimed at restricting fossil-fuel emissions in all nations for the first time, expanding the 1997 Kyoto Protocol that applied to rich nations only.

The biggest differences are over how to help poor nations pay for adapting to the impacts of climate change — rising sea levels and more violent storms — ratcheting up the ambition of carbon cuts, and what sort of rules should apply to developing nations. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Wednesday issued a 29-page draft text for envoys that narrowed many differences, leaving options open on the most controversial segments.

‘Long Way’

“We’ve got a long way to go, but this text makes it a bit easier for ministers to focus on the key issues,” said Jake Schmidt, who is in Paris following the talks for the Natural Resources Defense Council, a U.S. advocacy group. “Countries are trying to build an agreement that sets in motion ever-stronger actions in the decades ahead. Some are not ready to do that yet.”

India’s delegation, starting with Modi on Nov. 30, has sought to keep the wording of the Paris agreement as close as possible to the 1992 Framework Convention on Climate Change, the treaty ratified by 195 nations including the U.S. that established the talks. That deal called for “common but differentiated responsibilities,” which developing nations interpret as putting more requirements on richer nations than poorer ones in every segment of the deal. The U.S. and Europe seek a deal that applies more equally to all nations.

“Differentiation is the cardinal principle and differentiation has to be across all pillars,” Indian Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said Wednesday. “It is the historical responsibility which cannot be wished away.”

Indian envoys have been the most vocal in calling for differentiation, though they’re backed by other developing nations including China and Malaysia. Their position is that developed countries must take a lead in fighting climate change because they’re largely responsible for the accumulated greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that are causing the problem.

U.S. Allies

Kerry is backed up by other industrialized nations, including the 28-member European Union.

“It’s important to the EU that the agreement has a common, robust transparency and accountability framework,” said Anna-Kaisa Itkonen, climate spokeswoman for the European Commission. “Without these there will be no trust or confidence that countries will deliver what they have committed to. Nor will we be able to track collective progress.”

India’s Javadekar hinted that there’s room for compromise, saying differentiation “can be well articulated taking into account the present circumstances.”

Fabius said much work remains, and is trying to force envoys to meet their deadline of Friday at 6 p.m., a feat that would be unheard of at the UN talks, which in the past have dragged on up to 36 hours past their scheduled close.

“I told everyone to be ready to work this night and tomorrow, without discontinuation, probably,” he said.