Setting Fair Targets for Emissions Reductions - By Liu Junhong

Tensions escalated once again when industrialized countries tried to impose binding targets and deadlines for emissions reduction on developing countries at the Copenhagen climate change conference in the so-called "Danish text," in disregard of the long-established UN principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities."

The Group of 77 and China rejected the demands based on their shared positions on climate change. Their joint response, which was meant to safeguard the right to development that they have secured since the end of the Cold War, was fully justified. It also showed the developing countries' respect for the history of the world's industrial revolutions.

According to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol, there are three main ways to fulfill greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets. The first is to cut emissions through new technology, i.e., developing technological systems such as new energy, geological carbon dioxide storage and energy-efficient technologies, to slash greenhouse gas emissions substantially. The second is the UN's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). Under this mechanism, industrialized nations can acquire allowances by helping developing countries with emissions reduction. The third is emissions trading, where emitters can purchase allowances in emissions trading markets to realize their mitigation targets.

Today, developed countries have almost monopolized the latest emissions reductions technologies. That is, technologies for new energy, such as nuclear energy, wind power, solar energy and bio-energy, as well as for eco-friendly home appliances, electric vehicles, clean coal and low-emissions iron and steel plants, without exception, are owned by developed countries. There exists an unbridgeable technological divide between the developed world and the developing world.

In particular, in the face of common threats to humankind, developed countries have deliberately neglected the causal relationship between technological advancements and industrial revolutions, and the historical fact that they developed intellectual property while emitting carbon dioxide. Under the pretext of intellectual property rights protection, they are reluctant to transfer technologies to non-industrialized countries. Their aim is to perpetuate the technological divide and render developing countries vulnerable to quantitative mitigation targets.

Because of the technological divide, developing countries are not able to cash in on the CDM. Since the Kyoto Protocol took effect in 2005, companies in industrialized nations such as Japan and European countries have flocked to developing countries, where they help clean fertilizer plants and iron and steel factories, deal with pollution and treat wastewater with their cutting-edge technology in exchange for carbon allowances. In this way, they can achieve their mitigation targets without carrying out emissions reduction policies at home. Obviously, developing countries, which do not have the technology prowess and are still being helped, are unable to realize quantitative mitigation targets through the CDM.

Consequently, they cannot but purchase carbon allowances in emissions trading markets. This means they will have to seek economic growth at an even higher cost, thus resulting in a drain on wealth and a widening economic gap.

We have yet to find alternatives to fossil fuels--material that is indispensable to the survival of mankind and economic growth. In this context, attempts to set binding targets and deadlines for developing countries are tantamount to imposing economic sanctions on them and depriving them of their right to development.

As mankind's common problems, the environment and climate issues demand that industrialized and developing countries work together in peace and share responsibilities fairly. To achieve fairness, we should conduct a realistic and comprehensive assessment of the relationship between industrial revolutions, technological advancements, intellectual property development and carbon dioxide emissions. We should also take into account individuals' right to survival and development as well as different nations' right to make their voices heard in the international political arena. Only in this way, can we jointly create a good environment for the security, harmony and development of all humanity.

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