Friday, May 11, 2012


The world since its inception has witnessed change in various forms. One of the most fundamental of these changes has been the balance of power. While the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations held the centre of power in Ancient World, Asia specifically the Indian and the Chinese along with the Turks dominated the world in the medieval centuries. It was domination that Europe resent which made them question themselves. Renaissance as it was called was the new awakening. It was the art of looking inwards and finding the best inside oneself. It developed the spirit of enquiry the scientific spirit. And the field that perhaps benefitted the most was science. The medieval European man became a scientific man. Free from religious dogmas he began to question and unravel the mysteries of science. This scientific temperament gave rise to a spirit of entrepreneurship and a desire to develop a greater say in the world. Trade was its foremost beneficiary and with it came the Industrial Revolution.

Europe was never to be the same again. The small island of Great Britain soon established “Pax Britannica” around the world an empire so vast that the sun never set on it. Other European nations too saw a rapid rise in their authority. The continents of Africa, Asia, Australia and North and South America became colonies of these few powers of Europe. A curious relationship developed among the colonies and the master country. The colonies were responsible for supplying raw materials while the colonizing country began to produce materials. As industries grew the per capita income of these nations rose manyfold. The erstwhile rich kingdoms like India, China etc became mere supplier of raw materials while they saw their colonial masters’ progress like never before. The era of the true modern man had begun and with it began the story of rapid inequality. As the colonial powers rose in power and pelf the colonies began to sink deeper and deeper. There was no scientific development in these nations, no rapid development of industries no means of innovation. All this was part of the strategy of the colonial masters to maintain the gap between the colonies and the master. And at the turn of the 20th century the world was divided into two big camps the developed and the developing nation.

The erstwhile colonial powers of Europe had been joined by a few other nations like USA and Australia alongwith the rest of European Europe. The colonies were the developing nations .Post WW2 most of them gained independence in one big wave yet they had nothing in their economy which could support them. Industries, scientific parameters etc almost everything was lacking in these nations. Different scholars of the world have tried to explain the connotations of developed and developing in different forms, yet broadly the historical connotations perhaps best serve our purpose while discussing the contours of climate change today.

As mankind stepped into the 7th decade of the 20th century global scientists began to notice certain turbulence in the environment around us. We had taken to plundering the world for so long that we had forgotten the consequences of this plundering. A new term emerged in scientific circles “climate change” with its major consequence being global warming. Put simply global warming was a rise in the average temperature of the earth by 2-4 Celsius. Such a rise could cause havoc on sea levels with the sea levels rising rapidly and threatening the very existence of the coastal nations of the world. Yet the term climate change was not holistic enough with global warming. The effects of climate change would produce other hazards as well including irregular rainfall pattern, rapid freezing and so on. In short the delicate balance on which the Earth hinges stands to be dislodged thus perhaps damaging the entire Earth and with it mankind.

For long Development has been considered the hallmark of progress. Development can be attributed to two major sources nature and technology. Nature’s concept of development is based on abundance like air, water land etc. Technology’s concept of development has largely been around scarcity like expensive medical treatment. Thus this very basic difference in nature led to the emergence of conflict between technology and environment. In this conflict technology has successfully created havoc on the environment. Thus in the quest for this development nature has been harmed the most. While almost all nations of the world joined this mad run it was the developed nations who ran this show for almost 3 centuries plundering and destroying the earth.

It was with these issues in mind that the world leaders began to sit for discussion on climate change. Development shifted its focus from merely technological poweress to “sustainability”. In 1982 the Brundtland Commission gave its famous report “Our Common Future “.In it sustainable development was defined as a dynamic process designed to meet today’s needs without compromising on the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs.”In short it was using the interest provided by nature without endangering the capital of nature. It was this very definition based on which the world leaders met again in 1988 to sign the UN Declaration on Climate Change.

In 1988 the UNGA adopted a resolution. It was formulated by UNDP and WHO and mandated setting up an IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change) a focal body for all research activities pertaining to climate change in the world. In 1992 the Rio summit was held in Rio Di Jenario. Here the world adopted a legal document “UNFCC” for the first time which had legal backing.

The UNFCC hinges on a few fundamentals that dominate climate negotiations today. The first and the foremost is the PPP (Polluter must Pay Principle).In this case since the developed nations had plundered and polluted the world for so long they must legally by held responsible for the degenerate state that the earth is in today. The developing countries too accepted  its responsibilities in the fight against climate change under the Common but Differentiated Responsibilities pattern. These talks stressed on the relative capability of various nations to fight the battle against climate change. Developed nations were urged to help the developing nations in the fight against climate change.

On the basis of this UNFCC the Kyoto Protocol came into being. Signed in 1997 it came to vogue in 2005.The world was divided into Annexure 1 and Annexure 2 countries. Developed nations comprised Annexure 1 countries while developing nations comprised of Annexure 2 countries. The Annexure 1 countries were allocated quota of emissions which was made legally binding on them. Annexure 2 countries had no legal binding. Carbon trading became a tool for climate dealing. Carbon trading took place in two ways emission trading and offset trading. When an Annexure 1 country had to sell its unused emission counts to a non Annexure country it fell under the ambit of Emission trading. If an Annexure 1 country exceeded its emission targets then it had to mitigate or balance this target in another country by providing the other country with technology and financial resources. When such a trading took place between two Annexure 1 countries it was called Joint Implementation (JI) and when such trading took place between an Annexure 1 country and an Annexure 2 country it was termed CDM (Clean Development Mechanism).The Kyoto Protocol would lapse by 2012 and the world would need a new global definition by 2016.And this is where the problem starts.

Since 2011 post Copenhagen Conference the Developed nations have been arguing that they have lost too much in the fight against climate change when 80% people of the planet(the developing nations) have been kept out of it. Developing nations argue that subsequent protocols on climate change must be universally accepted rather than following the common and differentiated responsibilities dictum. Developing nations have consistently denounced this stand considering it treason on part of the developed nations to move back from their own world. As the world continues with its mudslinging we must ask do the developed nations really need to stall climate change talks over this. The answer would perhaps be a subtle No.

The development that man has witnessed is the result of a process that started in the developed world. For three centuries they ran their factories and their workshops and their transports. Hence historical pollution by these nations can’t be denied. When these nations used technology though efficient was not environment friendly. The same technology that is being used now developing nations is environmental friendly in nature. Thus non efficient use of resources by the developed countries in the early times have also contributed and further depleted the environment .Hence the theory that universal pollutants must pay does not hold must ground. This is because polluting the environment is a relative term and the rate at which the environment has been depleted by the developed countries by far exceeds the developing countries in terms of time and efficiency lag.

Developed nations have a higher emission rate than the developing nations. While emission per capita in US is 20t it stands at 4t in developing nations like India. Hence even in present circumstances the developed nations contribute more towards polluting the environment. The developed nations are more responsible for global warming and more responsible for continued global warming.

Developed states obviously have more wealth to employ in the fight against climate change. These countries have greater financial resources available to them. Developing countries too have the fight against climate change but they have a lesser obligation since the amount of finances available to them is not comparable to the finances of the developed nation. Hence with greater financial resources the developed nations must take the lead in fighting climate change.  

Developed nations have to be responsible to set up green economies. Developing countries with their limited resources are not capable of setting up their green model .The Developed countries have the responsibility of setting up green economies so that the developing nations will follow suit. Developing nations like China and India are very much concerned with their development and their capacity to compete with the developed world. With significantly greater poverty they have far lesser flexibility to tamper with their competitiveness and growth models vis-à-vis the developed nations. They won’t undoubtedly make the first move of going green until the developed world goes green first, assuring them that their competitiveness will not be jeopardized. In a position of greater economic flexibility developed nations must take this step first.

A recent study carried out by the MATCH think-tank under the aegis of the Oxford Climate Policy Change group discussed the contribution of historical GHG (Greenhouse Gases) emissions to the climate change levels. To calculate these correctly further parameters were introduced including timeframe, the time of emissions considered and the countries to be considered in this regard. They chose the time horizon as 1980 and the time was covered inside the Kyoto Protocol era .Historically industrialized countries (Annexure 1) contributed a stunning 54% of the total global pollution in this timeframe. When seen on country level US contributed the most at 19.4%, followed by the EU25 which stood at 14% contribution to the global pollution. While the LDC/AOSIS (Least Developed Countries/Association of Oceanic Small Island states) stood at 4.7% the share of India stood at 3.2%. Hence even in the Kyoto Protocol era the developed countries continue to litter the environment.

Thus from the historical deliverance, the empirical evidence and the persistent global scenario it is obvious that the developed countries must continue to spearhead the campaign against climate change. As the world readies itself for a new world order post Kyoto Protocol, the impetus especially falls on the US  which had refused to sign the Kyoto protocol. Being the global leader and the largest global polluter US must lead the campaign against climate change this time. Developed nations and developing nations must continue working under the UNFCC mandate established in 1992 to combat climate change and make this world a greener and a better place.


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