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International Policy

General features

The group formed in November 2009 at a meeting in Beijing, China, just before COP 15 in anticipation of difficult negotiations, and agreed to work closely together within the UNFCCC negotiations. Together with the US, the BASIC group played an essential role in defining the main (controversial) outcome of COP15: the Copenhagen Accord. Since then, the environmental ministers of BASIC have met regularly to coordinate their participation in the negotiations.
The BASIC group considers itself to be an integral part of the G-77 and China, the larger negotiation bloc of developing countries, supports all the statements of the G-77 and China, and stresses to be part of the coalition and not a negotiating group itself. However, the group has provoked complaints for potraying itself as representing all developing countries and for pressing forward without paying attention to the interests of smaller developing countries. Many observers have had the impression that the establishment of the BASIC group rather implied that the emerging economies were diverging away from the G-77 and China.
The BASIC countries account together for 40% of the world’s population and represent the undisputed economic powers within the global south. Despite their limited contribution to historical cumulative emissions, their emissions in absolute terms have been growing considerably in recent years. Nonetheless, the BASIC group has framed the problem of climate change rather as a problem of the developed world. However, the group has become less vocal in recent years, which has been attributed to the more progressive roles of South Africa and Brazil. But the BASIC countries still meet regularly for coordination. Along this line, its members invite the current president of the G-77 and China to all their meetings (the so-called BASIC+ approach).

Members: Brazil, China, India, and South Africa.

Negotiating position

Specific focus is made by the group on the principles of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR) and equity. In particular, BASIC countries have asked initially for a global carbon budget to be allocated to countries consistently with their development needs. This would have required developed countries to scale up their mitigation efforts so to allow developing countries to emit at the pace of their socio-economic development. Another intertwined key negotiating goal for BASIC has been and still is to preserve the long-standing UNFCCC distinction between developing countries, including the major emerging economies, and developed countries.
In the run-up to COP21 in Paris, BASIC called for an inclusive, balanced, equitable and effective 2015 agreement, capable to keep the temperature increase below 2°C, in line with the G-77 and China. The new agreement should thus strengthen the implementation of the Convention and not re-write or re-interpret its principles and provisions. Therefore, the BASIC group expressed also again the need to reflect differentiation between developed and developing countries in each element. While urging developed countries to undertake ambitious mitigation commitments and to take the lead, they asked for a clear link between developing countries action and the scale of the means of implementation provided. On (I)NDCs, the group has advanced the inclusion of mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology development and transfer, and capacity-building targets. They have also suggested the possibility for National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) to form the basis for adaptation INDCs. As for finance, BASIC countries back the requests by the G-77 and China for support to be new and additional to current development assistance and for it to come from public, rather than private, resources. The transparency system should build on existing differentiated arrangements and provide flexibility for developing countries.

In the aftermath of COP21, the BASIC group has not been particularly vocal and did not make any submissions. This could be interpreted as a further drifting away between the major economies. However, coordinating meetings are still taking place, not only at the UNFCCC meetings but also outside the negotiation venues. After the 24th BASIC Ministerial Meeting in April 2017 in Beijing, China, a joint statement has been issued. Therein, the participating countries emphasised – possibly in the light of the Executive Order on Energy Independence of U.S. president Trump – that the “global effort against climate change is an irreversible process that cannot be postponed”. The ministers underlined their “highest political commitment to the full effective and sustained implementation of the Convention, its Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement” and “reiterated their governments’ unwavering commitment to the global effort against climate change”. COP23 should accelerate the implementation of pre-2020 commitments and actions. The work on both pre-2020 and post-2020 climate action should be in accordance with the principles of equity and CBDR-RC. They also expressed the need to enter “as early as possible” into textual negotiations regarding to the modalities, procedures and guidelines for the Paris Agreement in order “to produce a comprehensive negotiating text at COP23”. They reiterated the necessity to reflect differentiation in the implementation of the Paris Agreement as well as the nationally-determined nature of contributions and the flexibility to developing countries. The BASIC countries underscored also again the need of sufficient and scaled-up climate finance by developed countries, which should also revise their emission reduction targets upwards.

As a result, it is observable that the BASIC countries interpret the Convention and its principles rather conservatively with emphasising especially the historic responsibility of developed countries. Not without self-interests, they demand the general application of flexibility to all developing countries and strict differentiation in all aspects of the agreement and its provisions. This is not necessarily in line with other developing countries, which partly demand more tangible action from the emerging economies. Moreover, many developing countries are strong proponents of the 1.5°C goal in contrast to the BASIC countries. Besides, the BASIC group also has a strong emphasis on national sovereignty as symbolised by the call for the nationally-determined nature of contributions and by the support of a bottom-up mitigation process already in Copenhagen.

 

Main sources:

Submissions and statements within the multilateral climate negotiations can be accessed on the Submission Portal of the UNFCCC.

Blaxekjær, L. and Nielsen, T. (2015): Mapping he narrative positions of new political groups under the UNFCCC, Climate Policy, Volume 15, Issue 6, pp. 751-766.

Hochstetler, K. (2012): The G-77, BASIC, and global climate governance: a new era in multilateral environmental negotiations, Revista Brasileira de Política Internacional, Volume 55.

Hallding, K., Olsson, M., Atteridge, A., Vihma, A., Carson, M. and Román, M. (2011): Together alone. Basic countries and the climate change conundrum. Nordic Council of Ministers, Copenhagen.

Herold, A. et al. (2014): The development of climate negotiations in view of Lima, EP Policy Department, Brussels.

Joint statement issued at the conclusion of the 19th BASIC Ministerial Meeting on Climate Change, Sun City, South Africa, October 10, 2014 (accessed June 8, 2017).

Joint statement issued at the conclusion of the 24th BASIC Ministerial Meeting on Climate Change, Beijing, China, April 11, 2017 (accessed June 8, 2017)