EW DELHI - The grouping of China, India, Brazil and South Africa has emerged as a significant force in Copenhagen and they could lead the way in future negotiations, the head of the U.N. climate panel said on Wednesday.

A climate change meeting ended last week in Copenhagen with a non-legally binding political agreement at the last moment between the United States and the big developing countries -- China, India, Brazil and South Africa that forms the BASIC group.

The next climate change meet is in Mexico next year, where countries hope to reach a legally binding agreement.

What has happened politically which is very significant is the emergence of this grouping of Brazil, South Africa, India and China, Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said in New Delhi.

Undoubtedly whatever agreement comes into existence by the time Mexico completes its conference of the parties, will necessarily have to deal with the power of this group (BASIC).

In November, the BASIC countries forged a united front in Beijing to put pressure on developed countries in Copenhagen.

India said the BASIC countries were successful in thwarting global pressure to agree to a legally-binding emissions cut.

The meeting in Copenhagen failed to yield the outlines of a broader and tougher legally binding climate agreement to expand or replace the Kyoto Protocol, whose first phase ends in 2012.

Pachauri said the Kyoto Protocol was sacrosanct and provisions of the 1997 protocol should be safeguarded as the world gradually moved towards a legally binding agreement.
Otherwise I am afraid the agreement will not be acceptable for a large number of countries, Pachauri said.

India as an important member of the BASIC group has a big role to play in safeguarding the interest of smaller island nations like Bangladesh and in Africa in future negotiations, he said.

Indian authorities must ... not allow their words or actions to be interpreted as being only in India's national interest, Pachauri said, a day after New Delhi said it had safeguarded the nation's interest by not signing a legally binding emission cut.

India, which says it is willing to rein in its carbon intensity -- the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted per unit of economic output -- by between 20 and 25 percent by 2020, from 2005 levels must be serious about climate change, Pachauri said.

If we don't bring about a shift to a more sustainable pattern of energy consumption and supply, India will face a major crisis.

(Editing by Alistair Scrutton and Sugita Katyal)