The quiet collapse of the most basic principle of UN climate negotiations in Doha – that all decisions should be taken only with complete consensus of 194 countries party to the convention — has troubled India and other developing countries.

Decisions under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change can only be taken after a consensus is arrived upon. This has for long ensured that the concerns of even the economically and geopolitically less influential countries are not lost.

At the recently concluded Doha talks, Russia objected to the adoption of the decision on Kyoto Protocol. But the host Qatar, presiding over the talks, ignored Russia’s objections as the decisions were gaveled through in pandemonium with claps from the rest of the countries and civil society representatives drowning the Russian delegation’s concerns.

This is not the first time this has happened in the climate talks. Two years ago, at Cancun, the hosts Mexico did the same with Bolivia objecting to the bitter end against the decisions adopted.

While there was little sympathy for the Russian position at the climate talks, the tendency to overrule objections from even powerful economies, leave alone less influential ones, has left a deep concern embedded in the developing world.

At the end of the Doha round, the US and Russia put their objections on record with the former leaving the window open to opt out of future talks if its conditions — that principles of the convention not guide future talks — are not met. This made India react and also put its reservations on record that it would not accept the Doha package unless all its elements and agreements were taken forward.

The next three years are to focus singularly on creating a new global regime to regulate emissions beyond 2020. The new compact is expected to bring to the fore the biggest churn climate talks have witnessed since the inception. The Doha round saw the high level of disagreement already existing between the countries on the way forward and experts believe the next three years will only be more acrimonious.

“The question is not whether Russia was right or wrong in someone’s views but the precedence being set by breaking the norm of consensus. One may say that in the process the talks were saved from a complete collapse but it could be any country’s turn next time to be run over,” an African negotiator told TOI.

The Indian delegation too has expressed reservations about letting the episode at Doha set the benchmark for future talks.

Since the Copenhagen talks in 2009 when the world was unable to adopt the political accord that was thrashed out by the influential countries and then sold to the rest at the formal UN forum, concerns have risen about keeping the multilateral forum alive even if that means lowering the ambition levels.

While countries have constantly complained that the talks are not delivering the needed results fast enough, they have accepted the decisions without reservations. It was only at Doha that the two most powerful economies — the US and Russia — along with a few others demanded that their exception to the decision be put on record.

The international pressure from civil society and the geopolitical configurations have also worked to ensure that the countries accept decisions even if they come through non-consensual routes or through last minute maneuvers behind closed doors — called green rooms in the jargon used in international diplomacy.

2012 Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd.