US trumps de­vel­op­ing world’s cli­mate deal

Ac­tion, how­ever, should be taken by coun­tries of the South on their own terms, rather than un­der the pres­sure of de­vel­oped coun­tries.

China Daily (USA) - - BUSINESS -

TheUnit­edNa­tions cli­mate change con­fer­ence in­Mar­rakech, Morocco, con­cluded onNov 20 with­out mak­ing any sub­stan­tial progress, be­cause it was tasked with chart­ing the course of im­ple­ment­ing the cli­mate deal reached in Paris in De­cem­ber 2015.

Al­though the Paris agree­ment has been rat­i­fied by 105 coun­tries at last count, in­clud­ing China and In­dia, it is not fully in the spirit of the Ky­oto Pro­to­col and many see it as re­ward­ing the big de­fault­ers who also hap­pen to be, his­tor­i­cally, the big­gest pol­luters— the coun­tries in the de­vel­oped North.

There are two cat­e­gories of such coun­tries: those that agreed, un­der the Ky­oto Pro­to­col, the prin­ci­ple of his­tor­i­cal cul­pa­bil­ity and the prin­ci­ple of “com­mon but dif­fer­en­ti­ated re­spon­si­bil­i­ties” to re­duce emis­sions more deeply than de­vel­op­ing coun­tries, but re­neged; and those that re­fused to rat­ify the pro­to­col, led by the his­tor­i­cally big­gest emit­ter of green­house gases (GHGs), the United States.

The Ky­oto Pro­to­col was based on the prin­ci­ple that since the de­vel­oped coun­tries emit­ted huge amounts of GHGs for more than a cen­tury dur­ing their in­dus­tri­al­iza­tion and de­vel­op­ment drives, they should yield “emis­sion space” to the de­vel­op­ing coun­tries. Con­se­quently, it was fur­ther in­cum­bent on them not only to un­der­take more strin­gent, and bind­ing, emis­sion cuts but also help de­vel­op­ing coun­tries to chart cleaner growth tra­jec­to­ries through fi­nan­cial aid and tech­nol­ogy trans­fers.

None of this hap­pened on a scale sig­nif­i­cant enough to make the kind of im­pact nec­es­sary to arrest cli­mate change. TheUS re­fused to rat­ify the Ky­oto Pro­to­col: its po­si­tion was that of clas­si­cal cli­mate change de­nier, with for­merUS pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush say­ing the Amer­i­can way of life was not up for ne­go­ti­a­tion.

The Paris cli­mate agree­ment buried the Ky­oto Pro­to­col and the prin­ci­ple of “com­mon but dif­fer­en­ti­ated re­spon­si­bil­i­ties” and placed all coun­tries, ir­re­spec­tive of their his­tor­i­cal con­tri­bu­tion to GHG emis­sion or level of de­vel­op­ment, in the same po­si­tion of hav­ing to un­der­take bind­ing re­duc­tion tar­gets, even if, ob­vi­ously, the depth of cuts were not en­vis­aged to be match­ing. Crit­i­cally, the cuts ac­cepted by the Barack Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, al­though Obama him­self is a not cli­mate change de­nier, were nowhere near the lev­els re­quired to keep the tem­per­a­ture from ris­ing 2 C above pre-in­dus- trial lev­els, which cli­mate sci­en­tists say is just short of the tip­ping point. The US is vi­tal to any cli­mate treaty be­cause in the ab­sence of ad­e­quate ac­tion by it, cuts ac­cepted by most coun­tries of the global South (in­clud­ing China and In­dia) won’t cut the mus­tard.

Per­haps the lead­er­ships of the coun­tries of the South should have done more to com­pel the de­vel­oped world to ful­fill its re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. In­dia is es­pe­cially guilty of selling out.

For years, suc­ces­sive In­dian gov­ern­ments have been clear that the Ky­oto Pro­to­col frame­work should be the ba­sis for the fight against cli­mate change. It was clearly in as­sid­u­ous pur­suit of the “spe­cial re­la­tion­ship” with theUS that the In­dian govern­ment craved so des­per­ately. While pre­vi­ous In­dian gov­ern­ments re­sisted the urge to give in to the de­mands of the de­vel­oped world, es­pe­cially theUS’, this one has, lit­er­ally, stooped to gen­u­flect be­fore Wash­ing­ton’s in­ter­ests.

This is not to say that In­dia should not take ur­gent steps to re­duce emis­sions. The re­cent cri­sis in Delhi caused by ex­tremely haz­ardous air qual­ity, which al­most shut down the city, is enough of a warning.

Ac­tion, how­ever, should be taken by coun­tries of the South on their own terms, rather than un­der the pres­sure of de­vel­oped coun­tries. In­dia has, in fact, been run­ning an emis­sions-re­duc­tion pro­gram to meet vol­un­tar­ily set tar­gets, which will not hurt com­mit­ments to de­vel­op­ment and fac­tor em­ploy­ment.

Nowthat Don­ald Trump, who is a self-pro­claimed cli­mate change de­nier, has been elected US pres­i­dent, the cli­mate deal is back in the mix. If Trump sticks to his known anti-cli­mate change stance, the only op­tion would be to go back to the Ky­oto Pro­to­col and hope the White­House ac­cepts its prin­ci­ples. The writer is a se­nior jour­nal­ist based in In­dia.

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