By Li Heng
When British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett held a special discussion last month at the Security Council, most of the developing countries rejected her argument that the environmental threat is an international security issue.
Climate change might affect world security, but ultimately it is a question of sustainable development, said Liu Zhenmin, the Chinese deputy ambassador to the UN. Liu made the point that the Security Council does not have the "professional competence" nor is it the "right decision-making place" for extensive participation leading up to widely acceptable proposals.
There is every reason to contain global climate change and protect the environment, but Britain was playing an "environment card" in an attempt to exert pressure on developing countries, ignoring the principal perpetrators - rich countries including itself.
Presently, climate change mainly refers to global warming. According to a report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, there is more than a 90 percent possibility that global warming in the past half century is related to the increase of greenhouse gases generated by the human use of fossil fuel. No doubt that 90 percent comes primarily from the major fossil fuel consumers of the industrial developed countries.
As a matter of fact, ever since the 18th century industrial revolution, Western countries have been sacrificing environmental resources shared by human kind to build their wealth.
This reality is reflected in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. It laid down in 1992 "common but differentiated responsibilities" in checking global warming - all countries bear the responsibility, but the developed world has the most responsibility.
The ordinary people of rich countries understand this. They have demanded that their governments take urgent measures to address the issue.
However, some developed countries' governments have been neglecting public opinion and passing the buck. The United States, the largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions, refused to accept the Kyoto Protocol to reduce emissions.
It set a bad example and other countries followed, including Australia. Signed in 1997, the protocol only came into effect in 2005. During the intervening eight years, as climate change advanced, rich countries bargained and squabbled over their share of the responsibility.
One of the US excuses in refusing to implement the protocol is that the document shuns 80 percent of the global population. What this means is that the vast number of developing countries should also bear the responsibility. The argument simply doesn't hold water.
On top of the fact that rich countries are responsible for today's global warming, these countries are even reluctant to give the funds and technical support that developing countries need to tackle the problem. Small wonder the United States is criticized by the international community.
Global warming is an outcome of human activities rather than a natural disaster. Without maximum action from the developed world, all countries will be ultimately affected, including the rich countries.
The author is an editor on the People's Daily website.
(China Daily May 24, 2007)