Getting the world's richest and poorest nations to cut a deal on climate control that both sides can live with has never been easy. This was evident again when Sudanese ambassador Lumumba Stanislaus Dia Ping who represents 130 countries in a bloc called the Group of 77 and China flatly called a preliminary draft of a policy document on climate control at the Copenhagen climate conference racist and imperialist.
Ping's strident name call is overblown and hyperbole. But his troubling point that industrial production and expansion has driven Western economic plenty isn't. And that to change the game and impose restrictions on industrial growth at the expense of poor nations seems unfair, especially if rich nations aren't willing to dole out the billions that they promised to aid the poor nations combat grinding poverty and boost economic growth.
Ping's blast at the rich nations for dragging their feet on aid to the poor nations is hardly new. Third World leaders have long charged that clamping tight caps on carbon emissions will make it almost impossible for the poorest nations to catch up with the West. By every measure of economic well-being, employment, technology, industry, and national GDP, the imbalance between the haves and have not nations is staggering. When the poor nations demand monies from the rich nations as the price for cutting a deal on climate control they are assailed as obstructionist, selfish, and fatalist on combating global warming and pollution. Third World leaders agree that global warming is a danger. It threatens their water supplies, forests, crops, rivers, and the seas that border their nations. The decades of colonial rule, economic exploitation, the systematic gut of their resources, and crushing debt, have stripped these nations of the resources to combat the threat.
The conflict over how best to balance climate control measures with Third World economic uplift exploded in bitter exchanges at a preliminary conference in Bangkok, Thailand in October. Third World delegates accused the rich nations of trying to wiggle out of their commitment to provide nearly $100 billion to a global donor's fund to aid poor nations promote economic development and growth. The European Union initially pledged to pump $15 billion into the fund by 2020. The Copenhagen conference has an added sense of urgency since the Kyoto Protocol Accords on climate control run out in 2012. Kyoto established the basis for a global warming control agreement.
The US and China are the world's two biggest carbon emitters. Yet they have not contributed a dime to the global fund so far. The Bush administration opposed Kyoto. Bush claimed that the treaty was unfair as its legally-binding provisions for curbing carbon emissions apply only to rich economies, not developing countries. But Bush was deeply influenced by the drumbeat conservative attacks on global warming as a hoax and part of the liberal agenda to retard US industrial growth. The Obama administration is under heavy pressure to reverse Bush policy on Kyoto and drastically cut greenhouse emissions as well as to contribute billions to the global fund for the poor nations.
While China does not slough off the global warming threat, it's still a developing nation, and has a huge vested interest in watering down any effort to place restrictions on emissions from its expanding plants and factories. China so far has opposed the effort to place a "peak" year on capping carbon emissions.
The charge of imperialism and racism aside poor nations will push the US Europe, and Japan hard at the Copenhagen conference not only to come up with ways to clean up the air that they pollute and heated up the planet with but also to strike an accord that does not do further damage to the tottering economies of the poorest of poor nations. They rich industrial nations did the damage to the earth and the economies of poor nations. The burden is on them to undue it. They must fulfill their pledge to shell out the money that they promised to boost poor nations. That's literally the price to make Copenhagen a true success for the planet.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His forthcoming book, How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge (Middle Passage Press) will be released in January 2010.