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A Hard Choice? Not at All

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The blame game that some people in rich countries have been playing against developing countries does not bode well for the UN Climate Change Conference that begins in Copenhagen on Monday.

If the world is to have a truly global agreement to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to mitigate global warming, every country has to play a definitive role. Fishing in troubled waters at a time when a defining deal could be reached is going to lead us nowhere.

A recent Reuters report quoted some unidentified Western countries' diplomats as having said that China and other big developing nations had rejected so-called "core targets", necessary to reach a climate deal. By suggesting that the developing countries' opposition has made it difficult to reach a new climate deal to succeed the Kyoto Protocol these people are trying to ensure that their countries continue to shirk their responsibilities and shift the blame on others.

Targets like halving global GHG emissions by 2050, making 2020 the peak year for emissions and limiting the rise in temperature to a maximum of 2 C above pre-industrial levels, as these European diplomats mentioned, are indeed important. But they are not deemed necessary for a new deal in Copenhagen because they will impose some impractical and unfair demands on developing countries.

Instead, major governments aim to agree on four substantive factors that must be decided if the world is to have a new and workable framework on cutting GHG emissions. These factors are: Developed countries must accept binding GHG-reduction targets for 2020, developing nations must set out the measures they will take to curb emission growth, the rich world must provide finance and transfer technology to help poor countries cut their emissions and adapt to the changing climate, and all states have to outline the governance structure that would provide the means to monitor the above three activities.

To be frank, the developing nations have no cause for concern. Just last week, China announced that it would voluntarily cut carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP by 40 to 45 percent by 2020, taking 2005 as the base year. India, too, is taking voluntary steps to check its GHG emissions.

On the other hand, the rich world, generally speaking, has not fulfilled its tasks as required by the Kyoto Protocol. Worse, given the global recession it seems more and more doubtful that the developed countries will keep their promise of providing finance and transferring technology to poor nations to help them combat climate change.

Expectations from Copenhagen have already been lowered. Still, we should not lose hope for a new climate deal. But for that to happen every country, rich or poor, big or small, should face up to the climate change challenge and do its utmost to fight it.

(China Daily December 5, 2009)