Copenhagen is famous for the writer Hans Christian Anderson and his ‘Little Mermaid’. When asked what the city is infamous for, a wag said ‘The church of our saviour’, a church with its spire built in the form of a spiral or screw. And the urban legend about it is that its architect was so shocked to find the spiral turned the wrong (anticlockwise) way that he jumped off the spire and killed himself.

Today, Copenhagen is infamous for the so called ‘Copenhagen Accord’, drawn up at the last world climate crisis conference held there two months ago. The accord is so wrong, so one-sided in favour of the advanced economy nations that it was not accepted by the nations of the developing countries.

The perversity of the stand taken by the West came to light from the word go. Even before the conference met, the Danes had a draft ready — a framework for action. A framework that would let the West cut emission not by 30 per cent but by 3 per cent of what they emitted in 1990. Hearing this, the Africans decided to walk out. So, the draft did not come out.

Fresh agreement

Not yet. Then they tried making a fresh agreement draft, led by France, UK and others. They asked the BASIC (Brazil, India, South Africa and China) nations to cut their emissions by 20-25 per cent by 2020, and that if they do so, the West would help finance them with about $130 billion, the first 30 coming this year.

Hearing this, the Pacific island nation Tuvalu said: “In biblical terms, it looks like we are being offers 30 silver pieces to sell our future. Our future is not for sale”, and Venezuela said “our principles are not for sale. Give us numbers of emission targets, not money”. (For some details of the Accord, please go to, and see Down to Earth (Jan 1-15, 2010 issue).

Look at the facts. Since the year 1890, the total amount of carbon dioxide emitted by all nations of the world is 1201 gigatons (gt). Of these, the advanced economy countries contributed 700 gt or 58 per cent. The US alone emitted 333 (or 28 per cent).

All developing nations put together have emitted 501 gt (or about 41 per cent). India’s portion is 31gt (3 per cent of total contribution) and China’s is 104gt (9 per cent). In other words, we with 17 per cent of the population of the globe have emitted 3 per cent, China with 20 per cent permitted 9 per cent. And the U.S., with 4.5 per cent of the world’s population is responsible for 28 per cent of the greenhouse gas emission.

The rational steps are obvious. It was in the 1970s that scientists discovered that CO{-2} (and methane) emission acts to make the globe a greenhouse, where the heat from the sun comes in, but the heat off the earth does not go out with ease.

This greenhouse effect warms the earth progressively as CO{-2} emission steadily increases, leading to a gradual increase in the average temperature of the globe. Since the 1890s (Industrial Revolution), the global temperature has gone up by almost 1{+o}C.

If the emission is not cut, it will warm up by as much as 3.5-4{+o} within a century. And that would lead to polar ice and glaciers melt, the ocean levels will rise and island nations like Maldives, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Micronesia are in danger. Indeed, so are the coastal regions of Bangladesh and many others.

Dangers clear

The dangers are clear, but so are possible solutions. Nations of the world have been meeting, year after year since 1992, to find ways to mitigate the problem and take steps such that global warming not exceed 2 degrees at best.

The International Panel on Climate Control (IPCC) has warned that in order to do so, we need to bring the global CO{-2} level to 350 ppm by 2050, in order to bring the temperature rise to within 2 degrees, and that industrialized countries must cut their emissions by 25-40 per cent of their present rates by the year 2020, ten years from now.

Yet, Clinton or Bush or now Obama, the U.S., has refused to do so, stating that its economy would be deeply hurt. So have other nations of Western Europe and Australia. They say they will cut by 3 per cent. However, they have turned their guns on the rising economies, and particularly China and India.

First they said it was that our paddy fields and cattle that produce the maximum methane gas. It was left to the late Dr. A.P. Mitra of CSIR to show by careful study that this is not so.

The accusation

Then they said it is the soot from our firewood and cooking chulhas. Now they blame us, stating that our fast-rising economy and the energy we use for it through fossil fuel burning, is responsible.

(They are yet to accuse our 1.1. billion people as the cause, since each one of us exhales CO{-2} every minute. Also note, Australia just signed a deal with China to supply 30 million tons of coals per year, for 20 years, to help the latter generate power. Soon, they will blame China for this).

What next?

What next? India is still dilly-dallying. Prime Minister Singh announced on Friday that India would take part in the forthcoming UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) “in a spirit of flexibility, and would also meet its commitment to reduce emissions intensity by 20-25 per cent by 2020”.

One wonders how we plan on doing so — have we buckled to the Biggies, or do we have a magic wand to do so?

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