Rich country, poor country blame game must stop
Just like the previous climate conferences, the Paris forum -- known as COP21 -- is stuck on the typical issues of how to manage the obligations of rich and poor countries to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and channel climate finances.
With the 21st session of the Climate Conference to Parties wrapping up tomorrow, it is likely to end without any concrete agreement. Over the past few days, much has been discussed about how climate finance will help developing countries make the transition to low-carbon economies and climate change adaptation. This will create a larger pool of donors, ranging from public donors to private sources in developed countries, with funds for developing countries expecting to reach $100 billion annually by 2020.
But a statement by Todd Stern, the US Special Envoy for Climate Change, about voluntary payments has created resentment from developing countries, most of which are members of the G77. China has stood firm that developed countries should accept responsibility for their historic greenhouse gas emissions by providing financial resources to all developing countries, but not as aid nor charity.
India has taken the lead in saying the agreement should include the term "loss and damage", referring to compensation for vulnerable states who suffer climate-related impacts that they did not cause.
This climate impact dates back to the early 1990s, when developed countries were seen as the "major culprits" of pollution. Yet, many of them have been reluctant to back a legally binding agreement on the financial issue. India is right to insist developed countries commit more and become legally bound to climate finance contributions base on the concept of differentiated obligations and respect for each others' capabilities to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
But at the same time, I believe developing countries must take action by reducing their use of fossil fuels and invest more in renewable energy, instead of waiting for financial support to pour in.
Developing countries have many ways to start acting now, instead of postponing their responsibilities. Money from developed countries will still be available to support them -- that is, if it doesn't get lost through corruption.
Before pointing fingers at developed nations for past crimes, developing nations should remember that the increasing total amount of greenhouse gas emissions globally is significant. They are also emerging culprits.
If they fail to realise this fact, it will likely result in a failure to curb the 2C increase in global temperatures, a target that would alleviate the risk of a climate calamity. It's time for giant developing countries like India -- and emerging markets in Southeast Asia, such as Thailand -- to stop investing in fossil fuels as if resources will never run out. At the same time, they and other developing countries must increase the use of clean energy.
While the climate negotiations do not seem to be going very far, it appears that at least financial institutions and the business sector have made some progress.
On Tuesday, 144 companies including Ikea Group, Coca Cola and Kellogg joined the Science Based Targets initiative -- a joint effort between the CDP, World Resources Institute (WRI), World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) and UN Global Compact -- to announce their commitment to set an emissions reduction target.
Meanwhile, the Financial Stability Board (FSB), which includes all G-20 countries and the EU, for the first time will establish an industry-led Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures to help financial market participants and policymakers understand climate-related risks.
China has also announced it will continue to reduce coal use and invest more on renewables, after decades of fossil burning that is now being blamed for hazardous air pollution.
Developing countries, including Thailand, should look to China's example and do more, starting with improving national financial transparency and allocating money to seriously and sincerely cut greenhouse gas emissions.
That will also include implementing policies for energy efficiency, which would include upgrading the public transport system, stopping national oil subsidies to fund renewable supplies and education campaigns to change the public's over-consumption habits.
Before the COP21 wraps up tomorrow, I only hope developed and developing countries will reach an agreement where both sides take action to cap rising temperatures and not just make political promises.
Paritta Wangkiat covers health and environmental affairs for Bangkok Post. She is an executive member of Thai Society of Environmental Journalists.
Paritta Wangkiat is a Bangkok Post columnist.