A flawed compromise

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The climate convention is expected to come into force as early as next June, ahead of the usual two to three years of lead time needed for ratification by all countries. Negotiations on convention protocols and administrative structure begin in Geneva in December. The sharpest indictment of the convention, which needs ratification by 50 countries, is that the US was the second country to endorse it.

As the convention stands today, it is a clear compromise that favours US reluctance to accept the need to curb greenhouse gases and its liability in creating the problem. The convention does not even accept the need for the industrialised world to stabilise emissions, let alone the urgency for drastic reductions.

The framework of the convention is fundamentally flawed as it makes no attempt to establish that the South has an equal share to the atmosphere and so it has a right to claim compensation for damages caused. The convention accepts that industrialised countries are taking the lead in controlling emissions and giving the South incremental costs to meet switchover needs, not because they are responsible for current and historical pollution, but because they are more capable of taking action (italics ours).

The enormous natural debt that the North owes the South has been whitewashed in the framework, which takes the position that the past is past and all that the North agrees to do in future is to provide, at its discretion, "additional funds" to meet the incremental needs of developing countries. And, it is not a bill the North has to pay automatically. Given the North's dismal track record in coming up with funds, the South could have mortgaged its future for a few not-so-additional crumbs. Future negotiations are vital for the South to establish its claims and for a better deal.