Why Rich Countries Must Lead On Climate Change


“A much better use should have been made of the economic stimulus packages,” said Mohan Munasinghe, vice chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Speaking at the National Climate Seminar hosted by the Bard Center for Environmental Policy, Munasinghe mentioned that South Korea devoted 80 percent of its stimulus package to clean tech. The South Korean stimulus package was worth $85 billion. In July, South Korea announced it will invest $85 billion more in clean tech. In contrast, the U.S. devoted $60 billion of its $787 stimulus package to clean tech.

Munashinge pointed out that the poorest countries are the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, but they are the ones who had the least to do with the problem. “Developing countries are pressing for more of a voice,” he said. “We have the knowledge to protect the most vulnerable, but the political will is lacking… High emitting countries should take the lead, but that leadership is so far lacking.”

During the recent climate change talks in Barcelona, African nations walked out, demanding that developed countries cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2020. Developed countries have promised reductions of 11 to 15 percent. Other developing countries backed the African nations in Barcelona. Last week, African leaders agreed on the compensation to demand from developed countries to help developing countries cope with climate change.

Munashinge listed laid out a framework for developed countries to help developing countries cope with climate change:

  • Businesses practicing CSR
  • Integrate climate friendly solutions and incorporate them into existing structures in society
  • Make people feel they can make a difference

Climate change agreements

In order for Copenhagen to be successful, Munashinge said there are three things which need to occur:

  1. Rich countries must reduce their emissions
  2. Developing countries need a safety net for new regulations
  3. Middle income countries (China, India) need to see that rich countries can maintain a good quality of life while reducing emissions

“Kyoto Protocol targets haven’t been met,” Munashinge said. That is not entirely true.  A report released earlier this month showed that the EU-15 are on track to meet their Kyoto Protocol commitments to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The Kyoto Protocol requires that the EU-15 reduce emission eight percent below 1990 levels by 2012. The EU-15 will reduce emissions more than 13 percent, according to the latest projections. Five EU-15 members (Britain, France, Germany, Greece, and Sweden) already exceeded the eight percent target.

We need a global cap-and-trade system

During the question and answer time, Munashinge was asked to critique the effectiveness of the clean development mechanism (CDM). He cited as positive the fact that the CDM is pro-development, and mostly involves planting forests or renewable energy projects. However, he said that many environmentalists feel the rich are buying their way out of trouble without going through the pain of having to reduce their own emissions.

“The principle is clear that it solves the efficiency method…carbon is removed from the atmosphere in the cheapest method possible,” he said. Yet, eventually the CDM will be replaced by emissions trading. “We have to have a global cap-and-trade system.”

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

2 responses

  1. AGW is over. Nobody buys it anymore. 31000 scientists have disproved it and hacked emails have revealed the agenda of these climatologists. Sorry world if you wanted US tax dollars and a global government. You almost made it, but you are busted!

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