The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (1992) obligates the developing nations to use clean and sustainable technology, but it also obligates the developed world to assist the developing world in its transition to cleaner technologies. The framework established the principle of common but differentiated, responsibilities. This principle recognizes that developed countries have historically, and currently, create the largest amount of greenhouse gases. Per capita emissions are relatively low in developing countries, but the share will grow as these countries industrialize to satisfy the needs of their people. The convention obligates the rich to help. Christian Aid reports that the developed world owes the developing world $600 billion in compensation for the impacts of climate change. The $600 billion is more than triple the developing countries' debt.
Not all developed nations accept this responsibility. The United States repeatedly protested during the Kyoto Protocol that the agreement did not set the same level of reduction for developing nations as it does for developed ones. The U.S. Senate is on record as refusing to sign any treaty that does not require developing nations to cut their emissions. The counter argument, of course, is that the developing nations have not contributed nearly as much, and should not be expected to reduce equally.
Some developed world leaders attribute global warming, at least to some extent, to overpopulation. That position puts the blame on developing nations with large populations, such as China and India. President George W. Bush is on record repeatedly as refusing to accept limits unless the developing countries do too. Prime ministers Tony Blair and John Howard agree. Critics say that it appears these three leaders would have the world believe that China and India are responsible for runaway climate change and have to be party to any agreement before anything can happen. The developed world fears the impact of large populations developing rapidly; strong economic growth fuels demand for energy and materiel—and demand may exceed supply of resources. But the developed world agreed long ago that development was permissible, even with massive amounts of pollutants. China and India are now being asked to take a different approach, a clean and sustainable way that the old developed countries did not try. This is one view of "common but differentiated responsibilities."
The developing countries produce slightly over a third of greenhouse gases. Their per capita emissions, one fifth those of the developed world, will increase as they develop consumerism, and, by 2100, the developing world will create two to three times the emissions of the developed world. The U.S. government has used this prospect as a rationale for rejecting any agreement, including the Kyoto Protocol, that does not put limits on the developing world. That may be moot because negotiations are taking place on a new agreement that, first, shows the developed world is serious (for instance, Britain has promised to reduce CO2 emissions by 60 percent), and, second, supports adoption of new technology by the developing world. If this happens, the developing world should skip the dirty-energy phase of industrialization and move directly to clean coal and hybrid cars, for instance. International carbon trading should provide the economic incentive for developed world businesses to help developing industries.
Because of climate change, six years after the adoption of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, reaching those goals was less than likely. Global warming has finally become most of the world's number one concern. Global warming will have impacts on food, energy, transportation, and make access to healthcare, education, and social services more difficult. The impacts will be greatest in fragile environments, such as mountains and coastal areas.
Africa will be most at risk because African economies depend so heavily on agriculture and natural resources. Drought and flood are major disasters that put life and livelihood at immediate risk. Global warming's unpredictable weather will exacerbate already severe African problems with food, security, and poverty. Africans had great expectations from the first climate summit to take place south of the Sahara, the 12th Conference of Parties (COP 12) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Nairobi, Kenya.
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