America’s top negotiator at the Copenhagen environmental summit, Todd D. Stern, has dismissed any claims that the developing nations are making against the US for decades of pollution that contributed to global warming.
He refused to accept the fact that the emissions from US companies over decades have led to the current scenario. His stand brings to the fore the clear divide between the developed and developing nations over the historical impact of pollution that has been created by the developed nations since the Industrial Revolution.
According to Mr. Stern, the period of 200 years from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution was unaware of pollution and its impact only climate change. Since the knowledge of the phenomenon is a relatively new one, no blame can be attached to the developed nations for the omissions and commissions of the past. Therefore, there was no question of any kind of recompense to the developing nations. The developing nations on the other hand claim that the industrialized nations have done more than their share of pollution and are now using pollution as an excuse to prevent them from achieving their developmental goals.
Mr. Stern refutes any claim on reparations by giving the example of China. China, he says has reserves of over $2 trillion and they would not qualify as a candidate for compensation. The stand taken by the US administration is at odds with the efforts of President Obama, who has been campaigning extensively to generate consensus so that a set of concrete commitments can be made, paving the way for a formal treaty next year.
However, the efforts of the Obama administration to pass environmental legislation has been stonewalled time and again in the Senate, leading to a lack of confidence in the government’s ability to set emission targets or ratify a global treaty, if it is reached in 2010. The US rejection of the Kyoto Protocol is still on everyone’s minds.
The US along with other developed countries is willing to extend some measure of aid to the developing nations in order to ensure the implementation of emission reducing infrastructure, in order to address some of the inequity issues raised by the latter. The European Union has recently promised aid of $3 billion to the poorer countries in a package that will add up to as much as $9 billion in the next three years.
The UN climate office has been asking the developed nations to contribute $30 billion to help the poorer nations build higher sea walls and convert their electricity generation systems to low carbon sources such as hydroelectric power. Poor countries also are seeking a commitment from the industrialized world to provide long-term finance totalling more than $100 billion each year by the end of the next decade, and have tried to pressure richer countries to do more to cut their own greenhouse gas emissions.
The Alliance of Small Island States, which will be the ones most hit by rising sea levels, has in the meanwhile lowered the temperature limits acceptable by 0.5 degree Celsius, putting more pressure on the outcome of the talks, and forcing the developed nations into a corner. The Copenhagen Protocol is going to need a lot more work in the coming week to become reality.