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'Basic four' – Key element of Mexico Conference

With the 2010 UN Climate Change Conference scheduled in Mexico later this year, the topic of climate change takes the forefront at many international conferences. During the World Economic Forum in Davos last week, the "basic four" were frequently mentioned and appear likely to be under the spotlight in negotiations on climate change.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon, Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn and Yvo de Boer, head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), laid out their ideas and focused on the basic four, a group which originated in November last year.

Faced with global issues of climate change, China, India, Brazil and South Africa gathered in Beijing to consult the basic standpoints for the first time, on the eve of the opening of Copenhagen Conference. Since then, the four countries have become known as the "basic four." The basic four is a temporary consultation mechanism on the climate issue that depends largely on common interests of the four countries and as such is different from regular consultation mechanisms such as G7, G20. The four countries agreed that climate change negotiations should be carried out under the framework of UNFCCC, Kyoto Protocol and Bali Road Map.

During Copenhagen Conference in December, ministers of basic four held a press conference to reaffirm their stand on issues. On December 16, the basic four jointly attacked the President of the Assembly, forcing the unexpected "Danish text" to be removed from the normal negotiating process. The emergence of the basic four during the Conference demonstrated to developed countries the solidarity of the developing countries. The basic four text on the outcome document of Copenhagen meeting, which efficiently safeguarded the interests of the developing world, was widely welcomed and recognized by the majority of developing countries. Finally, the group helped broker an agreement that has come to be known as the Copenhagen Accord, under which 28 nations pledged to reduce emissions and make their reduction efforts subject to international review. The basic four would submit their plans to the UN in the near future.

China, the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, has already stated it would cut its carbon intensity – a measure of carbon dioxide emissions per unit of production – by 40 percent to 45 percent by 2020, compared with the levels of 2005. India, the fifth largest polluter, said by 2020 it would reduce its carbon intensity by 20 percent to 25 percent.

Brazil's carbon emissions reduction goal is 36.1-38.9 percent by 2020, which mainly relies on reducing deforestation.

South Africa offered to curb the growth of carbon dioxide emissions by 34 percent by 2020 and 42 percent by 2025 with financial support. The goal, its leaders said, would be to have the country's emissions peak between those years and start to decline in absolute terms by 2035.

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