Equity and efficiency are critical in addressing climate change as the global action necessary places an additional burden on the poorest of the poor in Southern Nations. Climate change activities have the potential to create significant international and intergenerational implications for equity and sustainable development. Impoverished
countries do not produce the bulk of greenhouse gases and given their struggle to develop they should not be asked to sacrifice the scarce opportunities they have for development for a problem primarily caused by the Northern nations. The Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) exposes both the benefits and inherent contradictions mitigation and adaptation activities for climate change entail in relation to Southern Nations. The global environmental problem of climate change can not be addressed ‘unless we also take on the entrenched structure of global poverty’ (Hossay, P 2006, p192).
Climate change is a long-term problem that involves complex interactions between climatic, environmental, economic, political, institutional and technological pressures. Projected climate change is not confined to national boarders rather it is likely to affect all nations and their natural resources jeopardising future developments across the globe. Evidence demonstrates that the need to decrease green house gases (GHGs) is ‘not a luxury but a necessity’ as the survival of the human race is potentially under threat
(Ravindranath 2002, p 232).
Arguably Southern Nations should not have to sacrifice all their opportunities for development however in relation to climate change the kind of development that has taken place in wealthy countries cannot be duplicated in the impoverished world without grave environmental consequences. It is estimated that by 2020, CO2 emissions from developing countries ‘could be higher than those of industrialised countries’ (Oberthur 1999, p 27). Thus climate change embodied in the emission reduction problem needs to be addressed with equity and efficiency. Arguably environmental policies ‘need to move away from a strictly sectorial approach’ to incorporate broader social (equity), economic and environmental considerations (Ravindranath 2002, p225).
Not only are the effects and ability to adapt to climate change unequally distributed but the responsibility for the climate change problem is even more unequally distributed. The fossil fuel use by the world’s poor on a per capita basis is almost negligible thus in relation to climate change the innocent are suffering the effects of something from which they drew little or no benefit. Southern nations remain far behind the industrialised world in terms of emissions per person. Data collected in 2001 revealed that the industrial world cumulatively contributed towards 63% of the world’s CO2 emissions (Ravindranath 2002, pg 233). In other words three fourths of the world’s population living in developing countries account for less than one third of global CO2 emissions. India’s Centre for Science and Environment pointed out that even when the poor nations emit as much as the wealthy nations, 20% of the world’s population will still be responsible for 50% of its carbon (Dunn 1998). Considering that carbon dioxide burned remains in the atmosphere for over 100 years, equity demands that the damage the Northern nations have done in the past be accounted for.
Roberts (2001) contends that underdevelopment is largely the historical product of past and continuing economic and political relations. An examination of the climate change debate requires the ‘survival emission’ of Southern nations to be contrasts against the ‘luxury emissions’ of Northern nations (Oberthur1999, p 27). In the debate relating to emissions reductions obligations the ‘survival’ and ‘luxury’ emissions contrast was effectively articulated by China’s lead negotiator who said, ‘in the developed world only two people ride in a car, and yet you want us to give up riding on a bus’ (Roberts, 2001 pg 506). The greenhouse gases emitted from Southern nations are on the whole emitted from necessity or as a result of poor infrastructure or outdated practices. For example many of the world’s poor continue to gather firewood or animal waste for fuel which when burnt adds new carbon to the biosphere. In the reduction of emissions debate to ask Southern nations to stop development at a level Northern nation would never consider returning to is hypocritical.
We advocates of climate change, we do we suggest. Should the poorer nations or southern nations jeopardize their development for climate change mitigation measures?