Economics Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz has denounced the “unconscionable” failure of the rich nations to proactively “save the planet.” He was commenting here on the outcome of the Copenhagen climate summit.

Answering questions from The Hindu, at a session on his recent visit to Myanmar under the auspices of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, Professor Stiglitz said: “[When] we can give a trillion, trillions of dollars to our banks [in bailout], why can’t we give a little bit of money to help save the world — planet? I think it is unconscionable.”

Expressing “great disappointment” over the way the Copenhagen summit played out, he said the outcome was just “a form of words.” It might be seen as “better than nothing,” but there was “no progress” towards a “framework for agreement on reducing emissions” of greenhouse gases.

The hard part was not that there was no legally binding accord at the end. “The real question is burden sharing ... The United States, which has the highest per capita emission, did not make a commitment to say, ‘we are going to reduce our emissions to a level that is commensurate with [that of] the rest of the world.’ As an American, I felt very, very disappointed.”

The climate change issue should be “addressed in ways that do not impede the right of countries to develop.” This would require “assistance ... technology transfer” to the developing countries from the developed bloc, he noted. He cited other concerns as well such as those relating to deforestation.

About his visit to Myanmar, Professor Stiglitz said he would not underestimate the prevailing uncertainties there. Nor would he underestimate “the moment of hope” that the Myanmar people now seemed to feel.

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