Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Rich countries keep polluting, blame India

The rich countries blame India and other developing nations for the world's rising emission levels. Here is proof that the boot is on the other foot. Fresh data released by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change says greenhouse gas emissions from the rich nations increased by 12.8% between 1990-2007, the latest period for which figures are available.

While the industrialized countries are now gunning for India and China to take on stronger commitments and obligations under the new deal to be possibly thrashed out by the Copenhagen round of UN negotiations in December, the data from UNFCCC showed that most of the reductions had come from the "economies in transition" -- mostly eastern European and Balkan countries whose economies have crashed.

Carbon dioxide emissions from the US increased by 20.2% between 1990-2007. US has not ratified the Kyoto Protocol as it refused to enter a regime which would have obliged it to reduce its emissions by a fixed percentage below 1990 levels. The US, even after Barack Obama took over the presidency, has not shifted from its Bush-era stance and has refused to sign on to the protocol.

Even as it played the blame game, its own targets for the period closing 2020 would not even reach the 1990 levels. Developing countries, in contrast, have stated that the science demands US and other developed countries take emission reduction cuts of at least 40% below 1990 levels to keep temperatures under control.

Carbon dioxide emissions, embarrassingly for Denmark, increased by 1% between 1990 and 2007. With the carbon space in the atmosphere already swallowed, even small percentage increases are seen as a serious threat and with Denmark being the host country for the final round of negotiations this year, the statistics will not help convince emerging economies that rich nations are doing enough.

Turkey's emissions grew at 118% while that of Spain by 60% and Japan's at 14%. While these are high-growth or developed economies, India has argued that they have had more than their fair share of the carbon dioxide budget.

"The continuing growth of emissions from industrialized countries remains worrying, despite the expectation of a momentary dip brought about by the global recession," Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of UNFCCC, said in a press statement.

Emissions are explicitly linked to the levels of economic activity of a country as higher production levels require greater fossil fuel based energy. While some countries like UK have been able to achieve some gains, these have come out of one-time events such as switching much of its energy source from coal to gas. Experts warn that these do not reflect a declining long-term trend or the rich nations having drawn long-term trajectories towards emission decline.

Putting the countries on low-carbon pathways can have substantial impact on economic activity and most of the rich nations have shown reluctance to take any actions that may hamper lifestyles as it remains politically unfeasible for them.

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