Developed Nations Polluted More, Hence Should Settle For Slower Growth – UN

by Gopalan on Sep 3 2009 1:01 PM

In the fight against global warming, a much greater responsibility devolves on the developed nations as they have polluted the planet a lot more than other countries. It is but meet that they opt for a slower growth and let other countries to develop, says UN’s World Economic and Social Survey 2009.

Global carbon emissions have to be capped at 450 parts per million (ppm) if the world has to restrict the increase in global average temperature to 2 degrees celsius since the Industrial Revolution.

The 450ppm limit means the world can only pump 650 giga tonnes (Gt) of carbon into the atmosphere between 1850 and 2050, of which developed nations can only emit 137Gt (21%) going by their share of global population.

However, developed nations have already emitted 209Gt (32%) and they are expected to consume 85Gt more of the world carbon budget.

The report says, “This would mean that they would have consumed 177Gt of carbon over and above their “fair” share and by contrast, developing nations would have to restrict their emissions to 336Gt over the whole period.”

The world needs to set aside at least 1% of the world gross domestic product annually (between $500-600 billion) as additional investments in mitigation and adaptation to climate change.

Saying an integrated approach based on sustainable development is the need of the hour, the UN argues that the separation in practice of the climate change and development agendas has distorted the global debate on the two biggest policy challenges facing the international community.

The key to such an approach is a low-carbon, high-growth transformation of the global economy—a transformation that can keep temperature increases consistent with environmental stability as identified by the scientific community, while at the same time fostering the strong growth and economic diversification in developing countries that would allow convergence of incomes worldwide. The greening of catch-up growth will have to be further tailored so as to meet the adaptation challenges facing vulnerable countries and communities whose economic security will be threatened even if climate change is kept within globally manageable limits.

To date, the concept of development has too often remained in the background during the evolving climate debate. As a result, the discussions concerning both normative issues (invoking “common but differentiated responsibilities”) and financial ones (entailing how to fund mitigation and adaptation) have become polarized. Moreover, the discussion on creating policies and programmes to support the greening of catch-up growth has hardly started.

The Survey seeks to bridge this gap within the public policy debate. It argues that mitigation and adaptation efforts can move forward effectively only if they are part of a consistent development strategy built around a massive investment-led transformation along low-carbon, high-growth paths. While acknowledging that a variety of market and non-market institutional mechanisms will be needed if advances are to be made along those paths, the Survey contends at the same time that a critical role must be played by developmental States able to mobilize public finance and build appropriate technological capacity. This potentially win-win strategy will require the readiness of the international community to step up to the plate with multilateral financing on a much larger scale than has been forthcoming to date and new approaches to transferring technology from rich to poor countries.

Hence the report advises against market-based solutions such as carbon markets, cap and trade mechanisms, or taxation schemes for developing nations.

It says, “Instead the preferred option for developing countries should be a combination of large scale investments and active policy interventions.”

“What this report does is accept that the climate crisis is the result of uneven pattern of development. For every 1 degree increase in average global temperature, average growth is poor countries decreases by 2-3 percentage points,” said Sunita Narain, director, Centre for Science and Environment, a New Delhi-based non-governmental organization.

The report, which has been authored by the department of economic and social affairs, is a departure from an earlier report by the United Nations Development Programme, another arm of the UN, which recommended that developing nations be a part of binding emission cuts.

The new report adds that active participation of all countries in tackling the climate challenge will only come about if developing countries can maintain rapid economic growth, while satisfying their growing energy needs.

As an instance, Narain said, “The affordability of energy for Indians is at 5-8 cents per kilowatt hour but solar costs about 20-40 cents per kilowatt hour. This is where the developed world needs to invest.” She added that $1 trillion is required every year till 2030 to shift to sustainable energy sources.