Rich countries' inaction biggest obstacle to climate talks

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, December 7, 2011
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Rich countries should honor the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities" at the ongoing Durban climate talks as they have agreed under a 1992 UN framework.

Delegates at the Durban climate change conference [Xinhua]

Delegates at the Durban climate change conference [Xinhua] 

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), ratified by 194 countries, stipulates that parties should tackle climate change "in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibility and respective capabilities," and that "developed countries should take the lead in combating climate change."

The principle was also written into the legally-binding Kyoto Protocol in 1997 that forces cuts in carbon emissions.

At the Durban meeting, one of the few remaining opportunities to rescue the Kyoto Protocol which will expire at the end of next year, however, some industrialized countries continue to demand major emerging economies like China and India take more responsibilities while failing to fulfill their commitments.

Using developing countries as an excuse does not help in any way for rich countries to cover up their past inaction and evade their due responsibility to enforce strict emission cut targets in the future.

The United States, a major carbon polluter, has not ratified the Kyoto Protocol. Canada, which ratified the protocol, is looking to pull out of the pact to avoid embarrassment for missing its targets. Its emissions have increased sharply from 1990 levels.

The inaction and irresponsibility of some developed countries are veiled under harsh criticism of the developing countries' current large share of global carbon emissions, overlooking their huge population.

At present, developed countries top the list of CO2 emission per capita, with the United States and Australia, for example, emitting more than three times as much as China, according to latest figures released by the United Nations.

The industrial nations' advanced economic and technological development constitute the world's best resources to help poorer nations speed up carbon emissions cuts and achieve sustainable growth conducive to global prosperity.

As the second largest economy and a fast-growing developing country in the world, China has done its part to mitigate global warming. It has cut energy consumption per unit of GDP by 19.1 percent from that of 2005, and pledged to reduce per-unit GDP greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent to 45 percent by 2020 compared with 2005 levels.

Recently, China's top climate negotiator Xie Zhenhua said China could take on legal targets for cutting emissions after 2020, if rich countries extend the Kyoto commitments and ensure financial and technical support to poor nations. It is a sincere gesture on the part of China to strike a deal before Kyoto Protocol expires, if developed countries also cooperate.

For any tangible result to come out of the Durban meeting, rich countries must sign up to legally-binding commitments under Kyoto, and share their financial and technology resources with developing countries for win-win cooperation.

It is critical that rich countries be an active part of an effective global response to climate change. Their honest recognition of historical responsibility and the current plight will be inevitable for the negotiations to go back on track.

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