The conference of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Bangkok last week, that was to draft a rulebook for the Paris Agreement ahead of a crucial international conference in Poland in December, ran into predictable difficulties over the issue of raising funds to help poorer nations. Some developed countries led by the U.S. — which, under the Trump administration, has rejected the agreement — are unwilling to commit to sound rules on raising climate finance. Under the pact concluded in Paris, rich countries pledged to raise $100 billion a year by 2020 to help developing countries reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and aid populations to cope with extreme events such as floods, droughts and storms. Obstructing the transition to a carbon-neutral pathway and preserving the status quo is short-sighted, simply because the losses caused by weather events are proving severely detrimental to all economies. By trying to stall climate justice to millions of poor people in vulnerable countries, the developed nations are refusing to accept their responsibility for historical emissions of GHGs. Those emissions raised living standards for their citizens but contributed heavily to the accumulated carbon dioxide burden, now measured at about 410 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere, up from 280 ppm before the industrial revolution.
There is international pressure on China and India to cut GHG emissions. Both countries have committed themselves to a cleaner growth path. India, which reported an annual CO2 equivalent emissions of 2.136 billion tonnes in 2010 to the UNFCCC two years ago, estimates that the GHG emissions intensity of its GDP has declined by 12% for the 2005-2010 period. As members committed to the Paris Agreement, China and India have the responsibility of climate leadership in the developing world, and have to green their growth. What developing countries need is a supportive framework in the form of a rulebook that binds the developed countries to their funding pledges, provides support for capacity building and transfer of green technologies on liberal terms. If scientific estimates are correct, the damage already done to the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is set to raise sea levels; a 2° Celsius rise will also destabilise the Greenland Ice Sheet. Failed agriculture in populous countries will drive more mass migrations of people, creating conflict. A deeper insight on all this will be available in October when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change releases its scientific report on the impact of a 1.5° C rise in global average temperature. This is the time for the world’s leaders to demonstrate that they are ready to go beyond expediency and take the actions needed to avert long-term catastrophe.