The British climate secretary, Chris Huhne, has called for delegates to next week’s UN climate summit to arrive at a legally-binding global treaty to seriously tackle climate change.
The treaty should be in place by 2015, and start earnestly tackling the problem of emissions by 2020, said Huhne.
‘Rich’ vs. ‘poor’ countries
The secretary has taken much criticism from developing countries by saying that each nation should pledge a level of action towards regulating emissions according to its level of development.
This has pushed some the wrong way, as developing countries seek to keep the “rich” and “poor” lines drawn in the UN climate convention, as poor countries will not be expected to undertake intense action.
However, Huhne said in a speech that “China is not, and will not be, the same as Chad or India,” illustrating the level of disparity between what the “developing world” is capable of. He said that the system needs to reflect what each country is actually capable of, rather than deeming countries with booming economies like China “developing” and therefore unaccountable for climate regulation.
Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Singapore all exceed the EU average for per-capita GDP. Huhne says just because they were not in the OECD in 1992 does not mean they do not have the “developed” resources to take necessary action towards environmental regulations.
However, the developing world maintains that western countries are the only ones responsible for cutting their emissions because of the historical responsibility.
Huhne’s comments touch on what many analysts have been saying, as the definitions of “rich” and “poor” countries in come cases no longer reflect economic reality.
Nowhere is this greater illustrated than with China, which is running a trade surplus while the western developed world struggles to cope with crippling budget deficits and stagnant economic growth.
However, China may be on its way to revisiting the rich/poor divide and finding that it wants to define itself differently. In a meeting in the UK parliament, China’s minister of climate policy Xie Zhenua said that they may consider cutting emissions soon after 2020.
This would be a notable change, as the country just restricts rises in emissions now but does not have any policies in place to drastically cut their carbon emission.
He went on to say that China would make commitments “that are appropriate for its development stage,” and no more. The trouble is agreeing on what the development stage actually is.