Now comes the hard part. After agreeing that climate change poses grave dangers, the question is how to halt it or at least mitigate it. It’s on this point that manifold divisions emerge. How to bridge them, that’s the challenge confronting the climate change talks in Bangkok.
A number of advanced industrial countries are loath to implement mandatory national reduction targets of greenhouse gases and other pollutants. There are disputes about the baseline levels over which these targets ought to be based. The European Union (EU) wants 1990 to be the baseline year while Japan has 2005 in mind.
The biggest division, however, is over emission controls by fast growing, but developing economies such as China and India. This has been a cause for friction and is vitiating the approach to halt emissions. While the EU wants broad emission halts, the US and Japan want guidelines to be based on industries such as steel and cement. This, many argue, will help the advanced nations evade responsibility of providing access to clean technology to poorer nations where the pattern of emissions is different.
Here, the difference of approach between the EU and the US, the two sets of big polluting economies, is a study in contrast. The US response is intransigent as usual. Its negotiator, Harlan Watson, says his country would consider binding targets if other major economies do so. The EU, on the other hand, has proposed that industrialized countries cut emissions by 25-40% below 1990 levels.
It goes without saying that the EU proposals are forward- looking and underscore the gravity of the situation. They are also likely to persuade countries such as India and China to do more than what they are doing now. Emission levels that bracket developing countries with industrialized countries are not only iniquitous, but also gravely unjust.
When seen in conjunction with the sectoral emissions cap approach (one which wants benchmarks to be based on industries such as steel and cement, among other things), it brings all the disputes that had dogged negotiations back with a vengeance. The Kyoto Protocol was unhinged due to such tactics.
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