Developed nations are responsible for about 80 percent of the current atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). The United States alone has emitted 50.7 billion tons of carbon since 1950. China, with 4.6 times the population, has emitted 15.7 billion tons. India, with 3.5 times the population, has emitted 4.2 billion tons. More than 60 percent of the current industrial CO2 emissions still come from developed countries, which have about 20 percent of the world's population.
Industrialized nations have caused environmental damage that penalizes developing countries and their poor. It is unfair to expect the developing world to stop trying to provide basic consumption and development needs for the poor, while the developed nations continue to emit greenhouse gases to preserve their luxurious lifestyles. Per capita carbon emissions in the United States are 20 times India's, 12 times Brazil's, and seven times China's. And a portion of the developing world's emissions are due to outsourcing by wealthy nations.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) predicted that in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, emissions would rise from 11.02 tons per person in 2004 to 11.98 tons in 2030. Emissions for non-OECD nations would rise from 2.45 to 3.55 tons. The developing world may have large overall totals, but it is far behind in per capita pollution. The problem is mostly the responsibility of the developed, industrialized, and motorized OECD nations, and the United States. They have a history of industrialization that dates back to the 18th or 19th century, and their coal-fired industrialization-generated greenhouse gases have not yet dissipated.
Climate change is already having an impact on small island nations. Some of these nations, and other small and poor countries around the world, have been left out of the global warming discussions although the impacts of global warming—and of the solutions that come from the international negotiations—expected to be greater on them than on the developed nations. Equity dictates that these nations attempting to reach the take off to sustainable development be brought into discussions that affect such things as emissions allowances and other restrictions on economic development.
The issue of equity is usually left out when the developed world and oil producers get together. Their emphasis is on economic effectiveness. Understandably, the United States, consuming 20 percent of the world's resources with 4 percent of its population, and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) nations, worry about the economic consequences of altering the bases for their economies and way of life. When refusing to sign on to the Kyoto Protocol, the United States claimed that India and China had to endure cuts, too, to keep the economic playing-field level.
Those calling for equity note that the developed world has not provided meaningful assistance to make the transition to clean development. They hold that sustainable development is hampered by the diversion of substantial resources to debt and poverty, that developing countries such as India and China had already made significant cuts in emissions, and that environmental movements in developed countries have frequently pressured dirty industries to relocate to the Third World but provide profits and benefits to the developed world.
In opinion polls, the majority view is that developing countries should limit greenhouse emissions, but should not have to reduce emissions. The majority also back implementation of the Kyoto Protocol, whether or not the developing nations cooperate. Some developed nations back the developing nations in their position that cuts should not be mandatory because emissions per capita are already much lower. In June 2004, a Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) poll found a strong majority wanting limits, but not reductions; the same view held in an earlier PIPA poll in 1998. Other polls have comparable results. Notably, polls show that respondents want the United States to cut emissions, regardless of what others do.
developing world solutions
Developing countries are becoming more responsible on their own. Even as they develop rapidly, China, Brazil, Mexico, and India are cutting total emissions beyond the levels demanded by the developed world under the Kyoto Protocol. Emissions are still increasing, but the rate is slowing. In late 2005, Reuters reported that a state-owned energy firm in
China committed $2.48 billion over 5 years to alternative energy projects including biomass and garbage treatment. Chinese tariff policy favors non-fossil fuel energy sources. China has a target of 20 percent of energy from renewable sources by 2020, but is currently 70 percent dependent on coal for electricity. The United Kingdom has a goal of 10 percent for energy from renewable sources.
The Pew Center reported, in 2002, that some of the developing nations (Brazil, China, India, Mexico, South Africa, and Turkey) have cut greenhouse emissions by 19 percent, or 300 million tons a year. Additional cuts may reach another 300 million tons by 2010. They used market and energy reforms, energy efficiency, alternative fuels to reduce imports and improve living standards in remote locations, slowed population growth, cut deforestation, and switched away from coal to natural gas and other cleaner fuels.
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