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It all boils down to 'climate adequacy' and 'climate justice'

By Darryl D'Monte

India’s stand at Copenhagen is that “every human being has an equal right to the atmosphere”. Failure to recognise this right could lead to a situation where there are haves and have-nots in the climate sphere

Copenhagen, December 11: India and China clashed with the representative of the European Commission today, highlighting the fissures in climate policies between the 130 G77-plus-China bloc and the EU.  

“It is difficult to consider carbon dioxide emissions as a resource, as the right to pollute,” Karl Falkenberg, the Swedish spokesperson of the EU, said in reply to Indian negotiator C Dasgupta’s appeal that “every human being has an equal right to the atmosphere”.  

Failure to observe this right, Dasgupta argued, would lead to a situation where there would be haves and have-nots in the climate sphere. “There can be no restrictions to the right to development,” he added. “Our overriding priority is social development. Developing countries won’t be able to adapt to climate change if they don’t develop.”  

Qintai Yu, the chief Chinese negotiator, expressed his dismay that the euphoria over the UN climate meet in Bali had dissipated. “It boils down to the core problem of emissions space. Each one is entitled to a limited amount of this space. The developed countries’ attitude is ‘what is mine is mine, what we have taken away from you, we will keep’. This amounts to occupation of climate space, which we want back.”  

Fissures have also developed between the Association of Small Island States, or AOSIS, and G77. Crispin Gregoire, AOSIS representative from Dominica, said that its position was that “more advanced developing countries” could shoulder some of the financial burden themselves. He argued that they were the main beneficiaries of the Clean Development Mechanism, which permits industrial countries to pay developing nations to absorb their excess emissions.  

At the meeting, China, India and the AOSIS sought to play down their differences, arguing that they agreed on the fundamental issues. Gregoire mentioned that countries like Tuvalu in the Pacific would seek to migrate to Australia in future, to escape the ravages of ocean level rise. In the Maldives, nationals may migrate to some of its islands that have higher elevations.  

Falkenberg argued that “the starting point in any agreement in Copenhagen is the environment. Everyone has to contribute, and an international agreement will be falling short if it restricts itself to a handful of countries”. He added that all actions had to be verifiable, even if differentiated.  

Dasgupta countered this view by pointing out that the first issue was “climate adequacy” or the share of space in the atmosphere, and the second, climate justice. He noted that industrial countries, under the UN climate convention, were supposed to “peak” their carbon emissions by 2000, but these have in fact risen.   

  Infochange News & Features, December 2009