Talks on global climate change have proven to be no less thorny than World Trade Organization negotiations.
As the marathon UN Framework Convention on Climate Change wound up in Nairobi, Kenya, the world has seen little progress in reaching a workable consensus on how to hold back the greenhouse gas emissions.
Admittedly, the two weeks of talks have indeed produced something meaningful. The conference agreed, for example, to a review of the Kyoto Protocol in 2008 for possible deeper gas emission cuts by rich nations beyond 2012 and steps by developing countries to apply brake on emissions.
It was also agreed that Africa, as the poorest economy, should receive help to cope with challenges as a result of a climate change, such as drought, grain production cuts, storms, disease and rising sea level. Green technologies, such as wind or solar power, are expected to be promoted in the continent.
All this, however, pales in light of the urgent need to stop the worsening trend in global warming. It is so obvious that there is no need to cite statistics. The vast gap in views among different countries on how to balance their interest also needs to be addressed.
It may be a good sign, ironically, that people are still arguing, because argument may be a prelude to consensus and action.
As usual, the world is divided into two general blocs regarding this issue: developed countries that are being urged to take a lead in bolder cutbacks in gas emissions and the developing countries that are expected to play a larger role in this respect.
Their goals are the same, but they are divided in action. The Nairobi conference has been dogged by a slew of disputes, including when the negotiations on the post-Kyoto carbon reductions should formally start or end.
Developed countries, which are more financially capable of affording the cuts, should set an example for the much less affluent developing nations. But sadly, the United States, the biggest source of greenhouse gases, rejects emission caps under the UN Kyoto Protocol, seeing it as an economic straitjacket.
Such an attitude will discourage participation by developing countries in this global cause.
It will dent the confidence in the resolve of the developed countries to abide by their professed commitment to lead the fight against global warming.
The developing economic powerhouses, such as China and India, are already adopting clean energy facilities to offset the climate externalities of economic growth. They need to do more, but to that end, they need more time and support. Pointing fingers of blame at these developing countries does nothing to improve the situations.
(China Daily November 20, 2006)