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Rich versus Poor nations: A debate that’s at the core of Climate Change discussions

The current fear-mongering about Climate Change and its direct connection to the cutting of trees that we see amongst media persons, urban elites and that is fuelled by activists is completely misleading.

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Anagha Paranjape-Purohithttp://mazepune.com/
Architect-Planner. Pune & Arizona State Univ Graduate. Sustainability consultant. Public Policy. Green Buildings. Teacher. Writer. Tedx.

Green House Gas Emissions, particularly CO2, cannot be delinked with the state of the economy and lifestyle of citizens. We are, what we call, products of a fossil fuel-based economy. So, try as we may, emission of CO2 is deeply linked with every choice we make as a human being – whether its choosing to buy a pair of shoes or build a road. No country in the world has improved its human development index without a corresponding increase in its energy use and thereby, its GHG emissions.

As per Climate Change science, we know that the release of CO2 and other GHGs will result in progressive warming of the globe, leading to catastrophic impacts on human life. Recurrence of extreme weather events are said to be one of the impacts to tell us that the global climate is changing. These vagaries of weather will be responsible to impact a large population, particularly in developing nations, since we lack the basic infrastructure that protects people from natural disasters in developed nations.

We also know that this entire phenomenon of Climate Change is based on our data on emissions between 1885 and 2010. Since the late 1980s, Climate Change discussions and debates have commenced in the international fora, where we see a deep divide on viewpoints between the Poor and the Rich nations. Since the early 1990s, as emerging economies, India and China were looked upon as potential contributors to CO2 emissions. The entire premise was based on the fact that if these two giants decided to lift their citizens out of poverty, improve their economy and offer even a basic lifestyle to all their population, the GHG emissions will skyrocket and make the entire balance skewed. So, there was considerable pressure exerted on these two nations not to follow the path of emissions as the Rich countries had done in the last 100 or so years.

Read: Climate Change and India: Urban elites should focus their energy on pressuring developed nations to meet emission targets

The Poor countries, led by India, stood their ground and the negotiations were turned to recognize that for the poor countries to develop basic infrastructure for all its citizens, they will have to increase their GHG emissions up to a certain level. As a result, the emission targets were imposed/accepted only by the rich nations. Some semblance of equity attempted to arrive at during these discussions. For this purpose, a Climate Fund and the Carbon Development Mechanism was also established to apparently assist the Poor countries to have the money to look at low carbon alternative technologies when they developed over the next 50 years.

However, considering that now the world knew that India and China, including many nations in Africa, will have to increase their GHG emissions to improve their human development index, the Rich nations should have been more upfront and aggressive in reducing their GHG emissions. This has not happened, while the pressure on India has continued. Similarly, the CDM has failed to offer no resolution to the aspect of funding.

Read: ‘We are doing better than Europe on Climate Change’, MEA Jaishankar reminds German magazine during an interview

An important factor to be also understood here is that the Rich countries’ emissions are tagged as ‘luxury emissions’ while the Poor countries’ emissions are tagged as ‘necessary emissions’. This differentiation is so because 80% of citizens in Developed nations enjoy a lifestyle similar to what about 10% enjoy in Developing countries. The Rich and Poor divide is apparent and very important in Climate Change considerations.

However, since the Kyoto Protocol and its implementation, almost no Rich nation has achieved the targets it was set to. So effectively, we still have a large disparity, where the Rich nations continue to emit their luxury emissions, while there is a general global hue & cry in India about Climate Change when India seeks to develop. China, just ignores everyone, any which ways.

See the chart below which gives a basic understanding of what and where each of the first 32 nations that are tagged as ‘high emitters’ are doing for  Climate Change mitigation.

Source: Climate Action Tracker – Paris Climate Agreement

The image clearly shows that India is still, by virtue of various factors, a nation that is at a compatible level. India is, in fact, the only nation that is investing heavily in climate change mitigation while it continues to put in infrastructure for her citizens at a rapid pace. If losses are being done in one particular sector, gains are being done in another to offset these losses. It is just sad that Indian citizens fail to appreciate this leadership that India has taken upon itself.

It is a known fact India has extremely efficient systems in place when it comes to energy use. Apart from policies and codes in place for all the energy-intensive sectors, India has accomplished a high GDP growth with only 3.7% growth in energy use. This is unprecedented and achieved for the first time in the world. So India as a country of aware and responsible citizens is already committed to taking action for mitigating Climate Change.

Read: Greta Thunberg, Climate Change and Indian Dilemma

The current fear-mongering about Climate Change and its direct connection to the cutting of trees that we see amongst media persons, urban elites and that is fuelled by activists is completely misleading. While setting up of infrastructure will add negligible emissions to the atmosphere, the benefits of improving the Human Development index will ensure that fewer people are impacted by natural disasters, whose frequent recurrence is blamed on global warming.

The poor are always the worst affected by any natural calamities. So, if the Rich nations and highest global emitters do not reduce their GHG emissions, the Climate Change phenomena will continue to impact India and her citizens, particularly harshly, if we do not take any steps to lift our people out of poverty.

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Anagha Paranjape-Purohithttp://mazepune.com/
Architect-Planner. Pune & Arizona State Univ Graduate. Sustainability consultant. Public Policy. Green Buildings. Teacher. Writer. Tedx.

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