Developed Countries and Climate Change

Apathetic Attitude of Developed Countries Towards Climate Change
Apathetic Attitude of Developed Countries Towards Climate Change

Climate Change indicates any drastic changes in climate which has an overall harmful impact on the earth. The issue of rising global temperatures or global warming is not a new one but has been responsible for causing damage to the earth since decades. The point of concern regarding climate change lies in the fact that it has potential to deliver catastrophic damage to the earth to an extent which can bring about extinction. Experts agree that the industrial revolution was the turning point which caused heightened emissions of greenhouse gases and consequently has led to an increase in global warming since then with industrialisation, the demand for energy, use of fossil fuels for production and over exploitation of resources began and this is continuing till date. These factors bring along with them disastrous consequences like melting of ice at poles causing rise in sea levels, loss of millions of lives due to weather-related disasters like flood, drought, small islands disappearing entirely, destruction of coastal environments, rapid increase in number and intensity of forest fires and many more.

The issue of climate change is a serious one and measures are being adopted to mitigate its effects and adopt to its consequences. This is where the role of all countries be it developed or developing becomes significant. In the present scenario, the actions needed to mitigate climate change depends more on the developed nations. The developed countries need to make significant and absolute reductions in their emissions as they have already reached a stage to sustain survival of their people by emitting indiscriminately in the past. The comparison in the present condition is between emissions for survival for least developed and developing nations and emissions for improving and changing lifestyle for developed nations. 

Without effective and significant reductions of emissions from developed countries, the developing and least developed countries will not be left out with carbon space or emissions required to accommodate the development needs of their respective countries. The current industrial activities of developing and least developed nations are adding incrementally to the existing emissions stock caused by developed countries. However, it cannot be completely stopped as it is needed for development. This is where the role of developed countries in reducing emissions becomes significant.

CBDR, Kyoto Protocol and Paris Climate Change Conference

In an attempt to take collective global action to deal with the issue of climate change, different agreements, conventions and groups have been formed by nations aiming together. The mother agreement on climate change is the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), one of the products of Rio summit of 1992. CBDR (Common but Differential Responsibilities) was formalized during the same summit in 1992. CBDR principle acknowledges that all the nations have shared obligation to deal with climate change however, it does not recognize equal responsibility of all nations for the matter. As per CBDR, more industrialized countries or the so called developed  countries like USA, UK, etc. have contributed to climate change more and have been polluting the atmosphere with emissions for much longer period compared to other countries that are developing or least developed and hence developed countries should have greater responsibility to deal with the problem of climate change.

Kyoto Protocol is an international treaty decided in the 3rd meeting of UNFCCC in 1997. The protocol is based on CBDR principle. Under the Kyoto Protocol mandatory and targeted cut on emissions were imposed on developed countries. The developed countries also needed to provide monetary and technological aid to developing nations to deal with climate change. The protocol’s first commitment period was from 2008 to 2012 and the second period was from 2013 and will end in 2020. The Kyoto protocol divides nations based on CBDR principle into Annex-1 countries who would reduce emissions, Annex-2 countries as a sub group of annex-1 who would provide financial and technological assistance to developing countries and Non-Annex countries including developing countries without any compulsory, binding targets to reduce emissions.

In 2015, Conference of Parties to UNFCC, the Paris Agreement was adopted as a separate instrument under UNFCCC and not as an amendment to the Kyoto protocol. The Paris agreement legally manifests the principles of universality, equity and CBDR. The Agreement aims to keep global temperature rise in this century below 2°C above the pre-industrial level and will also strive to further limit temperature increase to 1.5°C. The Agreement states that developed and rich countries should help poorer nations by providing climate finance in order to deal with climate change. The Paris Agreement focuses on maintaining equity and even CBDR. According to the Paris Agreement, countries needed to pledge intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) to curb emissions voluntarily. It also provided for a global stock take in every 5 years which would assess the collective progress towards achieving the goals of the Agreement.

Indifferences of Developed Nations Towards CBDR and Climate Change

It has been seen since long that developed countries instead of trying to take up responsibility for climate change have always tried to shift the burden on to the shoulders of developing countries. All developed countries continue to use fossil fuels and as per reports of International Energy Agency, the use of fossil fuel in generation of electricity has been on the rise for OCED Countries. This callous attitude of developed countries is clearly evident from their failure to meet emission reduction targets, failure to transfer finance to meet the Kyoto Protocol commitments. Grants and other climate finances of $100 billion a year have been promised by developed countries long back but only around 20% of the amount is being given by developed countries. Developed countries argue that the developing nations like India, China etc have already reached emission, levels at par with developed nations and hence all nations need to be treated as equal and given equal relaxation in matter of emissions.

The indifferent attitude of developed nations towards climate change is spearheaded by USA. USA is actively involved in trade deal (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) with EU which poses severe risks of causing environmental degradation. USA has also put India in a fix at WTO for sourcing in domestic content requirements in order to help in progression of global solar firms. This attitude clearly indicates USA’s stance of favoring trade at the cost of combating climate change. Besides this, non-ratification of Kyoto protocol and withdrawal from Paris agreement portrays USA’s indifferent attitude towards climate change. Besides USA other developed countries have also neglected this issue and have not given it due importance that can be seen in Canada, Japan, and Russia’s withdrawal from 2nd round of commitments of Kyoto protocol, defacto of Australia in Paris agreement and other such approaches of developed countries not taking due responsibility and actions to deal with climate change.

The 24th Conference of Parties (CPO-24) of UNFCC also known as Katowice Conference was also an indication of developed countries shifting the burden of climate change on to developing nation. The adoption of rulebook for implementation of the Paris agreement in this conference establishes a strategically advantages global climate regime for the developed nations. The conference established uniform standards of reporting, monitoring and evaluation for all countries. It stated reporting of as little as 500 kilo tonnes of emissions per country which will serve no purpose in efficient management of climate change. The COP-24 also saw a dispute over whether to welcome the IPCC report on global warming at 1.5°C which estimated uncertainties in the cumulative global emissions still being allowed and states the risk of exhaustion of global carbon budget or to merely note it and sideline the report. The COP-24 also failed to inspire developed countries to increase the climate finance to developing countries which is urgently needed to to deal the issue. The developing nations demanded that bulk of climate finance must be from public sources, however, with the passage of the rulebook, developed countries have succeeded in including FDI, equity flows, loans etc. that can increase the indebtedness of developing nations as means to fulfil the obligations of developed countries to deal with climate change. The COP-24 was a failure as it neglected equity and established an unbalanced approach with undue emphasis on mitigation by all. COP-24 is considered to be biased in favour of developed nations, neglecting the developmental future of major section of the world’s population.

Responsibilities of Developed Nations

Developed nations have a significant role to play in dealing with climate change. Having accomplished survival status for their people, the developed countries are an advantageous position from where they can opt to convert into renewable source of energy for meeting their needs, help developing nations to deal with climate change by aiding and assisting them in terms of monetary and technological help. The Paris Treaty is an effective voluntary action-based solution to deal with climate change and developing nations like USA need to actively participate in it instead of withdrawing from it. The developed nations need to give priority to climate change issues over trade so that they work in collaboration with developing nations and achieve goals of the Paris Agreement. The end of Kyoto Protocol term must not divert the nations from fulfilling their commitments. The developed nations need to deliver on their emission reduction targets and strive for smooth and adequate finance and technology transfer to developing nations. A group of developed nations turning their backs on fulfilling their commitments is against the principle of equity and will render the goal to achieve net-zero emission level by 2050 absolutely meaningless. Developed countries need to need to arrive at a feasible solution to deal with the pending issue of carbon markets from COP-24 where they are against allowing carrying over of carbon credits under Kyoto Protocol to the current market. The developed nations must modify their Nationally Determined Contributions to make it compatible with the aim of 1.5-2 degree rise of Paris Agreement. Developed nations need to do away with their economic self-interests and strive to create new climate friendly technologies, work collaboratively on clean coal mission to reduce emission and increase efficiency of coal combustion along with developing nations which will lead to equitable burden sharing and help deal with climate change effectively.

Conclusion

Climate change is the most dangerous issue that the world is currently facing. Climate change leading to global warming has been causing severe damage to the world and have the ability to further cause catastrophic consequences. The global approaches like Kyoto Protocol, Paris Agreement etc. will prove to be effective in dealing with the issue but only with active participation of all nations be it developed or developing. The apathetic attitude of developed nations visible in-failure to meet targets committed under Kyoto Protocol, withdrawal from Paris agreement etc. will prove to be destructive for the world. The developed nations need to take up responsibility for their actions (emissions) instead of shifting it on to the developing nations. Equitable approach is the need of the hour in order to deal with the grave issue of climate change.

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