Battleground Bali: Developing countries take on industrialized countries


Australia, China and Malaysia are questioning whether Canada is trying to “rewrite” history by putting the burden of emissions control on poorer countries as the climate change conference in Bali becomes a battleground between the developing countries and industrialized countries.

China, which has been accused as the planet’s worst polluters along with the United States, has accused Canada of targeting poorer countries over mandatory emission control cuts.

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“I just wonder of it is fair to ask developing countries to take on binding targets,” said Su Wei, a member of China’s delegation to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali, ahead of the arrival of ministers for environment from 180 countries next week.

“There is a need for economic growth to meet the basic needs of the people in our fight against poverty, while the US has been pumping pollutants into the atmosphere for decades, and the West has been doing it for hundreds of years,” added Su.

China further questioned the fairness of binding cuts when its per capita emissions are about one-sixth of the US.

The Malaysian delegation, meanwhile, gets its opportunity to even scores with Al Gore, joint winner of the Nobel Peace Prize with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), for ripples the former US vice president caused while on an official visit to the country.

Clarifying that Malaysia never questioned IPCC’s findings, a spokesman said the “report is extremely technical.”

The Malaysian delegation said: “We need time to study the implications of these findings on our economy and take appropriate measures. We are not questioning the findings, but we need time to study the findings. Every delegation has a right to their say.”

World Wildlife Fund climate change program director Hans Verolme has accused Malaysia for “buying time” as a delaying tactic because it is an emerging economy. He has cited Malaysia along with Saudi Arabia as the two countries for their “disappointing performance” despite a clear signal by Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi on Malaysia’s stand on climate change at the recent Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

Verolme said: “Other emerging economics have said they are willing to do their fair share to reduce carbon emissions. How much time does Malaysia need?”

Malaysia has been criticized for its promotion of palm oil as a source for biofuel. Palm oil is Malaysia’s largest agricultural export. “The plantations are situated on peatland, a rich storage of carbon dioxide,” claimed Wetlands International last Wednesday.

In his first official act as Australia’s new prime minister, Kevin Rudd ratified the Kyoto Protocol on battling climate change, leaving the US as the only developed nation yet to sign the 1997 agreement, claiming it hampers economic growth.
Rudd said the new government will lay out its pledges “at the appropriate time” following the results of a report from its climate change economic specialist, sometime next year.

“We all know the environmental imperative of facing up to the challenge of climate change,” said Simon Crean, Australia’s new trade minister. “Australia is not going to sign up to any binding commitments.”

Crean further pointed out promises by rich countries alone to cut carbon dioxide emissions will not solve global warming. “Both rich and poor nations must commit to slashing greenhouse gas emissions if the world wants to solve global warming.”

Steven Guilbeault from the environmental group Equiterre said, the industrialized countries must take the lead. “The Kyoto Protocol is built on the recognition that industrialized countries are largely responsible for the problem of climate change.”

Three dozen industrialized countries are signatories to the Kyoto Protocol, which agrees to cut their greenhouse gases an average of five percent below the 1990 levels by 2012 when the agreement expires.

Led by China, the developing countries, EU states and environmental activists representing 430 non-governmental organizations around the world are in Bali to “hammer out” a timeframe for a new deal on tackling climate change following expiry of the Kyoto Protocol in 2012.

Chief scientist of the United Nations IPCC, Rajendra Pachauri, has said he sees the solution in developed countries establishing a “record of action and commitment” which will induce and provide a moral basis for developing countries to assume the burden.

“It is next to impossible expecting the developing world to agree to cuts when their per capita emissions are so much less than the West,” Pachauri said. “In the absence of that, I don’t think anything is going to happen. Global warming is accelerating, and human activity is responsible for it.”

Delegates at the 11-day conference are being asked to commit to reduce polluting greenhouse gas emissions by 25-40 percent by 2020.