Brazil breaks from longtime group, joins ‘ambition’ coalition

By Joel Kirkland, Jean Chemnick | 12/11/2015 01:21 PM EST

LE BOURGET, France — Brazil has joined a new coalition of countries calling for an ambitious climate deal, parting ways with other rapidly developing economies that have long been its allies in global talks.

LE BOURGET, France — Brazil has joined a new coalition of countries calling for an ambitious climate deal, parting ways with other rapidly developing economies that have long been its allies in global talks.

Brazil aligns with the European Union, United States and scores of progressive developing countries in the newly formed "high ambition coalition." The group is calling for an agreement to hold postindustrial-era warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, require countries to strengthen their reduction pledges over time and take other steps aimed at avoiding the worst impacts of global climate change.

China, India and South Africa — which with Brazil made up the "BASIC negotiating coalition" — have not joined the group. But over the last days, Switzerland, Iceland, Canada and other countries have become new members. The United States was also a late addition to the group, which now totals over 100 countries.


Brazilian Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira did not attend the press event announcing the move, but a spokeswoman said she met today with Marshall Islands Foreign Minister Tony de Brum, who chairs the high ambition coalition, to finalize joining the group.

Minutes prior to the Brazil announcement before a large, jammed conference room, reporters crammed into India’s small office space. There, India Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar urged developing nations not to lose sight of issues of "equity" in the deal and "differentiation" from the rich industrialized countries.

"If the developed world doesn’t show the spirit of accommodation, then success in Paris is not guaranteed," Javadekar said. "What we are striving for is a just and equitable accord from Paris."

In the language of diplomacy, that means India is still concerned about the panoply of outstanding issues, including financing and text about a "global stocktake" for all nations to reassess progress on emissions in 2023 and every five years after that.

India’s leaders face a tough political dilemma. Domestic media is pressing the government to resist a U.S.- and European-led accord that could cut into its rapidly growing economy — without the help of significant capital injections for clean energy and adaptation to climate impacts.

India is holding firm to the original framework for international climate agreements that treats developed and developing countries differently. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in recent days has used his bully pulpit to urge negotiators to put into practice a more flexible framework that accounts for today’s world, more than two decades since the U.N. framework separated rich countries from poorer countries. Since the mid-1990s, China has grown into the biggest industrial carbon emitter, and India is third in line.

Harjeet Singh of ActionAid said the group of Brazil, India, South Africa and China has always had both collective and different interests.

"India is a totally different country altogether" compared with the others, he said.

Brazil’s decision to walk away from the coalition that includes China and India, in an effort to get a Paris agreement, changed the dynamic of the talks in the final hours. A new text will be out this evening, and countries are expected to return to the table in the morning.

De Brum told reporters Brazil had demonstrated that it backs the principles of the coalition.

"Having you on board is essential to our success," he said.

Large developing economies say they were not informed about the creation of the group. De Brum responded to a question about possible plans to add China and India by saying that while all countries are welcome, "we would hope they would bring with them more ambition. That’s the important part."

He added, "They must bring higher ambition and uphold some of the principles on which this group was founded."

Carole Dieschbourg, president of the Council of Ministers for the Environment for the European Union, told reporters after the press conference, "I hope they are really joining this ambition coalition, not only saying."

The new group has been in the works for years but made its debut this week as parties here scramble to reach a deal on mitigation, adaptation and finance.

One of the issues still to be resolved in the talks is how the agreement will treat transparency — the process for verifying that countries are actually cutting emissions — a major priority for both the United States and the high ambition coalition.

That issue could be a major sticking point in the end, as it was six years ago at the conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. There, President Obama intervened directly in an effort to prod China away from a hard position against allowing independent verification of its emissions reductions.

One source close to the U.S. delegation speculated yesterday that China could continue to be a holdout because of that issue. To the United States, that remains a critical piece of the puzzle.

Reporter Lisa Friedman contributed.