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What are the Perspectives of Developing Nations at COP21?


By Averill Brewer

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to climate change solutions. The last century-and-a-half has been filled with progress, but the repercussions of the industrial revolution on our climate will take many years and many billions of dollars to mitigate on a global scale. The leaders of developing countries will possess some of the most interesting perspectives to observe at the 2015 U.N. conference on climate change in Paris this week, as they must delicately balance the need to bring hundreds of millions out of poverty while also consciously developing their own paths for mitigating their impacts on climate change.

The Guardian reports that one of the most vocal and passionate groups at the Paris conference so far is the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) who are the “most at risk from climate change” and are urging major players like the “U.S., China and Europe to set a long-term goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius,” versus the 2 degrees Celsius temperature change called for by climate scientists. The history of the 2-degrees Celsius equilibrium was set by the EU in 1996 as a ceiling based on scientific evidence that, if the average global temperature rises 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels, then severe climate change impacts will increase exponentially.

Although climate change is not a competition of who will be the most affected by its impacts, tension must exist between rich, industrialized countries and developing countries, who are still seeking to give access to the billions at the bottom of the ladder needing basic necessities like electricity.

The New York Times reported that on Monday, in a speech at the Paris conference, Chinese President Xi Jinping conveyed the need to “respect differences amongst countries, especially developing,” and addressing climate change “should not deny the need of developing countries to reduce poverty,” perhaps signaling that in order to do so (reduce poverty), more pollution and consumption of coal and oil will take place. President Xi Jinping also conveyed that countries must retain the ability to “pursue their own solutions to climate change and that there should be an emphasis placed on continued dialogue and the exchange of best practices for mutual learning amongst countries.”

If rich countries have historically been the largest emitters of CO2, the second half of the century saw the emergence of China into the CO2 big-emitters club. With China’s new status as the world’s largest economy, or second largest depending on your source, one important factor to note is that 82 million people still live below the poverty level in China. How does this translate? 82 million people, plus the hundreds of millions in other developing countries, will have the pleasure of eventually being able to consume at levels they have yet to experience: buying cars, gadgets, clothes, food et. al.

Rich countries pledged $100 billion at the Paris conference to help poor countries combat the climate change that the rich countries are largely responsible for (see above). President Xi Jinping believes more funds are needed to provide for poorer nations, but is China now considered a “rich” nation?

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi conveyed that raising the standard of living for the impoverished in India without breaking the carbon budget will be a central challenge to the country, the Wall Street Journal reports. India’s minister of state for environment, Prakash Javadekar, thinks that developed countries must “accept historic responsibility of polluting earth in search of development” and must “walk the talk” to make the climate change conference a success, according to the India Times. Javadekar also said that a key contribution to helping developing countries like India combat climate change will be funding technology transfers with respect to intellectual property rights.

Ultimately, the “world’s billions are at the bottom of the ladder and are seeking growth,” said Prime Minister Modi, as quoted in the Hindustan Times. He believes “rich nations need to do more to fight climate change and provide enough ‘remaining’ carbon space to the developing world to grow and meet aspirations of billions living in poverty”; i.e. rich nations, here’s some food for thought: Don’t hog the carbon space pie, please!

Image credit: UN Climate Change Conference

Averill Brewer is a writer currently living in England. This autumn she completed her master’s of international business with a focus in sustainable development. In her free time, she writes for her blog www.locoeco.com. You can contact her at averill.brewer@gmail.com


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