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The Copenhagen Climate Conference: The Trap To Avoid…

The UN climate conference that will be hosted in Copenhagen Denmark this month Dec7 – Dec18 plans to deliver a new climate treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol. Kyoto Protocol which, by the way, The US, who shares with China the position of the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, signed but did not ratify.

With this Copenhagen summit, along with the turnaround of Washington on the topic, it is becoming clearer that climate change is indisputably the issue of the century. However, I have some reservations about this climate conference with regards to the question of who should normally “pay the price”.

If it is unquestionable that climate change would have a serious impact on both developed & developing nations (for example, recently, two studies were undertaken on the impact of climate changes on China and other major crop producers. The research showed that the world’s number one emitter of greenhouse gases will experience unstable weather and a dramatic drop in major crop production in the future. Furthermore, the Chinese grain production is likely to drop ten percent when temperatures rise by one degree Celsius. The rice growing period of China will generally shorten by seven to eight days if temperature rises one degree Celsius. And, according to Zheng Guoguang, head of the China Meteorological Administration, in an article published on an agency’s website, this will lower the quality of rice, and if the current grain production mechanism does not change up to 2030, the production potential of crop farming will drop between five to 30 percent). However, coming back to the point I was making before the brackets, the notion that emerging economies should somehow be part at the same pace & level of responsibility in the greenhouse gas emission reduction seems unfair to me. Why? Because it is important to remember that developed economies for more than three centuries now have been damaging the ecosystem with their industrialisation that was not in any way low carbon oriented.

Therefore, asking developing or emerging economies to slow down their development process in order to pay the price of the damage caused by developed nations is just absurd to me. Especially since the richest nation in the world, which is also one the largest emitter of greenhouse gases nations, namely US, did not show until recently any will of reducing their carbon emission. It is only lately that the White House revealed that President Obama, who will attend the Copenhagen conference, would pledge to reduce US emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, and that the US would continue that downward path over the following 10 years to reach a 41 percent reduction.

Here is the problem: The richest nation, the nation that caused the damage in the first place and currently one of the greatest emitter would “pledge” to reduce only by 17% by 2020; whereas the UN is pressing developing countries to lower their emissions growth by 15 to 30 % from business as usual, according to the authoritative UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Well, no comment…

The World Wildlife Fund declared recently that the US pledge for 2020 translated from 4 to 5 percent below the commonly accepted benchmark year of 1990. “It certainly doesn’t bring us closer to that range of emission reduction levels that we need to see,” said Kim Carstensen, WWF’s climate change director.

Also, the EU environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: “The aggregate offers from developed countries still fall well short of the level of ambition needed, so I urge those countries with weak targets to improve them,”

Please judge for yourself…

As usual, in such circumstances, these international institutions always try to make things look fair for everybody and that they are there for developing countries too. In a statement issued lately, UN’s top climate negotiator said: “We can get an agreement that specifies financial support to developing countries”. In other words, financial support to help developing countries adapt to green technology would also be part of the treaty. Good! But wait a minute; does anybody remember the pledge to commit 0.7% of rich-countries’ gross national product (GNP) to Official Development Assistance? Can anybody tell me how many of these rich countries have met that commitment so far? Please not this time… promise, promise, enough is enough!

Rich countries should take their responsibility and “pay the price” of their reckless industrialisation methods. Not that emerging economies should not take part in this, ultimately this is a worldwide issue. But there is no way developed economies should expect emerging economies such as Brazil, South Africa or India not to maximise the use of their capacities and therefore jeopardise their own development while trying to respect the so called “Climate Change Treaty” which is in some respect boycotted by some rich nations. This is what I call “the trap of de-growth” that developing countries must avoid.

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December 3, 2009 - Posted by | Articles In English, International Economics | , , ,

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