Ensure Equity and Protect Right to Develop


Michael Jacobs, an expert with Project-Syndicate, has commented through his feature “The Climate Countdown” that future action to change global climate policies should be led by the developing countries. His emphasis on ensuring equity and also protecting the rights of developing countries to advance economic development can hardly be underestimated considering the recent conclusion of Doha Climate Talks, which have encouragingly hinted that 2015 should remain as the deadline for producing a new comprehensive climate treaty.

There exists a dilemma for the policy makers vis-à-vis an internationally acceptable global climate agreement, which is fraught with numerous obstacles due to, among others, insistence from the industrialized world that future emission reduction pledges should be commensurate with rising economies’ contributions to global carbon emissions. Both, China and India, current world’s largest emitters but non-parties the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, have been blamed by some developed countries for failing to meet their obligations as international development partners to reduce the greenhouse-gas emission level. There are a few other emerging economies besides the above two which are also becoming the targets of growing criticism in this regard at climate conferences.

The troubling part of the history of climate change negotiations has been that the poor developing nations including Nepal have become the most vulnerable parties because of climate change impacts, while their voices in climate talks have been turned a deaf ear except that a mechanism is being discussed to help such victims adapt to climate change. The proposed Global Climate Fund, supposed to assist the developing nations, whose populations are struggling to survive let alone enjoy fruits of prosperity, is still an oasis in the desert.  Whether the increasing vulnerabilities of poor countries will be adequately taken care of when a new climate agreement will be readied by 2015 depends very much on such countries’ lobbying in the future negotiations.

Against such background comes a soothing remark from the World Bank chief, Jim Yong Kim, who says, “We will never end poverty if we don’t tackle climate change”. He has given this comment in connection with the release of a new report from the World Bank. Titled as “Turn Down the Heat” the said report provides convincing explanations as to why a 4 degree centigrade warmer world must be avoided.

There is a scientific evidence produced by the 2007 Fourth Assessment Report of Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) that human survival requires the global warming to remain below than 2 degree centigrade. If the level of temperature rises above 2 degree centigrade, then it might lead us to a dangerous climate change. Therefore, during climate change talks, negotiators seem to make a point that we should bolster efforts to ensure that the dangerous climate change does not occur.

Notwithstanding the above, Small Island Developing Countries (SIDS) and Least Developing Countries (LDCs)  have identified that global warming of 1.5 degree centigrade as warming above which there would be serious threats to their own developments and, in some cases, survival. As per the aforementioned report of the World Bank, present emission trends put the world plausibly on a path toward 4 degree centigrade warming within the century.

While the concerns of above geographically-marginalized nations are genuine, the world community does not seem to take note of that very seriously. Carbon emission is the main source of global warming. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the single largest threat to earth in terms of damaging the environment. More disturbingly, carbon dioxide has a life span of a century and it causes lasting harm to the planet’s environment.

Researchers have found that human beings on earth emit twice as much greenhouse gases as per the world’s oceans and forests can observe. The environmentalists have been warning that this is not sustainable, which they prefer to call overshoot. To them the world must either accept long term chaos for the sake of short term comforts or favor to sacrifice such comforts in order to obtain long term comforts.

As clearly outlined in the document issued after Rio+20 summit (June 20-22, 2012), the scale of negative impacts of climate change affect all countries but more disproportionately the developing ones. This scenario precludes the developing countries from meeting their Millennium Development Goals and hence threatens their viability and survival.

In Michael Jacob’s opinion crossing the threshold of global temperature of 2 degree centigrade implies condemning future generations to global warming’s most devastating consequences. That is why he argues that combating climate change must again become a moral crusade, which entails appealing to people’s emotions. Not surprisingly, he has been lobbying that the new climate change treaty which will hopefully replace the Kyoto Protocol in 2020, must bolster efforts to meet the UN target of limiting global warming to 2 degree centigrade.

In light of above reality the Doha climate talks have been on track. When future negotiations resume, one must not lose sight of the fact that the poor developing nations, which are forced to bear the brunt of global warming, need to be provided extra assistance in mitigating the negative impacts of climate change. They deserve to be offered help so that they can adapt to the climate change successfully without compromising their right to develop.

Protecting planet’s environment is a global responsibility. In the name of fulfilling that obligation the rights of the developing countries to industrialize should not be necessarily sacrificed. Furthermore, a provision for a new mechanism for compensating the countries like Nepal, that are suffering the most as result of climate change, must become an integral part of a new comprehensive climate treaty under negotiations. Those representing the country in such negotiating forums must remain vigilant to see that the legitimate concerns of Nepal, now considered to be the world’s fourth most vulnerable country in terms of negative impacts of global warming, are not overlooked.

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