Let’s make one thing absolutely clear. The country responsible for the highest levels of carbon emissions is a developing country: China. China generates almost 25% of the world’s carbon emissions, with another developing country, India, in third place after the American carbon giant. But surely, the responsibility ought to be shouldered by those with the economic resources to tackle climate change? Perhaps, but China’s GDP is the second highest in the world, with two other developing countries, India and Brazil, among the other richest countries.
It is, of course, true that most developing countries will be hardest hit by climate change, not least by food and water shortages. But for this to be prevented, as it must, we cannot restrict ourselves to the obstructive and inaccurate term “developed country”, as the Kyoto Protocol has done since December 1997 in stipulating which countries should be involved in tackling climate change. Doing so has had two costly problems: firstly, it has meant that some of the biggest greenhouse gas emitters and some of the world’s largest economies are exempt (China, India, Iran, Mexico, South Korea et al.). This leaves poorer countries with less emissions, such as Romania, picking up the slack simply because they’re considered ‘developed.’ Secondly, it has created a stand-off between the US and China, with the former refusing to accept the Kyoto agreement without the inclusion of the latter. This has left the 37 consenting countries committed to the protocol when the biggest offenders, with the greatest capacity for technological and economic contribution, are excepted.
The distinction between ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ in this motion is not just fuzzy, it’s misguided. Suggesting that developed countries ought to take responsibility misrepresents the capability and culpability of a great many countries.
The argument from the proposition that developed countries should ship out their technology free of charge and even subsidise what the UNFCCC refers to as “adaption processes” is fanciful and damaging. There simply isn’t the incentive for governments to spend potentially billions on green technologies to freely give to countries who are already indebted to them, while few engineers and scientists will work for this non-profit initiative. Lending money to the majority of developing countries would only plunge them into even more debt and would risk destabilising their recovery efforts.