Rich Countries Ignore Irony in the 'Danish Text'

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Time is running out for world leaders to agree on a deal to reduce carbon emissions sufficiently to prevent catastrophic climate change. The conference currently taking place in Copenhagen is being described as the last chance saloon by scientists and researchers, but representatives of a small few are instead treating it as a late night, all you can drink, free-for-all saloon.

Days after the leak of the so-called "Danish text" - a document which outlines a draft resolution for the conference - rather than these nations collectively discussing how they should address the myriad consequences of change in global temperatures, they are in complete disarray, bitterly divided between the haves and have-nots.

The leaked document is in essence, an attempt by developed countries to dictate to developing countries the outcome of any agreement to come out of the summit. The architects of the secret draft agreement, which was shown only to a handful of countries this week, are understood to be the United States, United Kingdom and Denmark.

Analysis of the text reveals a significant departure from the Kyoto Protocol, which made it legally binding for rich countries to reduce their carbon emissions, while setting no specific targets for poorer and developing countries.

The "Danish text" proposes that developing countries be forced to agree to specific emission cuts and measures, and for rich countries to emit nearly double that of poorer ones. Furthermore, the amount rich countries would give to help poorer ones to invest in green energy and fight the effects of climate change was set at a mere $10 billion, far short of the $500 billion predicted by the United Nations to cost.

The privileged have chosen to ignore the irony of such a proposal, for they cannot be unaware. They suggest that those who have done the most to damage the atmosphere pay the least to the counter the effects, and that developing countries must reduce their emissions without sufficient support to find alternative means of power.

It is not only the content of the draft resolution that should raise eyebrows, but the way it was negotiated without the inclusion of developing countries. Obama received his Nobel Peace Prize on Thursday for his embrace of multilateralism, yet during the most important summit of our time, we see the opposite.

An agreement which is both just and viable is well-known, and but for the cowardice of rich countries, also attainable. To achieve a deal at this summit will require a rare show of honesty from these leaders. Yes, their economies will suffer, but the wealth they enjoy today comes as a result of years of growth at the expense of the environment.

It is not charity for the polluter to pay for the damage they have done, especially when we all have a vested interest in the outcome; indeed, it would be hypocritical to expect otherwise.

Developing countries also have their part to play, but the onus is on the polluters to come to the table with humility, and with a proposal that acknowledges their role in the disaster we are fast approaching, the "Danish text" is not that.