15 Apr 2009
Historical burden
2393 view(s)

The north may renege again and again but the south must go on fuelling their growth

scientists have rung the alarm bell again, this time in Copenhagen, predicting a climate change more severe than the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s fourth assessment report. Still, who will bell the fat cat? Especially the one caterwauling about urgent action?

These are difficult times, goes the yowl. Climatic effects will be so severe, the fat cat yowls, its best effort at mitigation will not be enough. So, get India, Brazil, China—emerging Toms, all—into the act!

Wait a minute. Rich countries have been spewing black smoke since James Watt’s toy, gases that still lurk. But this logic doesn’t work any more, for, our rich brothers say, they were not aware of climate change then. But what about the last decade? Well, industrialized economies have stabilized, for all manufacturing has been shipped to developing countries. Now, their emissions are up. Perfect occasion to brand them ‘emerging’ and get India, Mexico, China to take up emission reductions!

Did someone say loss of forest cover creates emissions? It seems tropical forests can best absorb carbon. So, developing nations must conserve them. In all this, don’t ask who plundered them in the first place: you see, the time of crisis is now!

(Developing nations, accidentally located in the tropics, may have the last laugh here. In Copenhagen, scientists questioned the absorption capacity of tropical forests after temperature rise!)

Developing nations eagerly awaited European leaders’ decision on finance promised to help poor countries out of the carbon trap. The European summit failed to do so. Most leaders thought it was the worst time to commit money, needed to bail out the boys in casino capitalism. Now, stories abound on India and China not being so badly hit. So they can rise to the cause: emission reduction, now!

Industrialized nations became wealthy by externalizing nature—the real basis of today’s crisis—and sourcing large quantities of their inputs from poor countries. Today, even as developing countries are pulling up, they must do precisely what the North didn’t (still doesn’t). They are expected to go to the negotiating table, trust the deceivers, be abused as polluters and cave in. Moreover, they should internalize the environmental cost of their growth because the world has a crisis.

Today, we carry the historical burden of fuelling the northern growth, all over again. The competition just got terribly unfair.