Climate change has been an increasingly significant issue and will have a major global impact in the future which will impact everyone. According to a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the global temperature has already risen by 1.1 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and the impacts of climate change are becoming increasingly severe. However, you may here on the news that it is always the most unfortunate who are hit worst with climate change, even though they have contributed the least to it. These countries are mostly developing countries usually located closer to the equator contrasted with developed countries and many of these have other issues such as war and poverty and lack of economic stability.
Recently there has a dispute of whether less developed countries should pay an equal role compared to western countries of the impacts of climate change. According to the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, the cost of inaction on climate change could result in an estimated loss of $72 trillion in the global economy by 2060 so it is vital that action must be taken now.
Why developing should pay less
An argument in favour of developing countries paying less is this issue started hundreds of years ago and they were not responsible for this problem. In the past, it was western countries such as the UK and USA that had no regard of the climate and the impact they would have when going through the industrial revolution. Between 1750 and 1760, the UK increased there carbon emissions by tenfold showing the exponential increase and this kickstarted the enhanced greenhouse affect.
Due to this history, there aroused a concept called climate debt. This is the theory that countries that went through there industrial revolution during the 19th and 20th centuries owe a debt to developing counties in the current world. They are currently emitting greenhouse gases for longer periods of time and at higher levels which has its attendant consequences therefore they should receive aid to provide resources and mitigate its affects.
Moreover, with impoverished areas being struck the hardest, the effects of climate change may worsen already-existing economic disparities. Political unrest may result from climate change as susceptible nations may endure internal strife or a surge in immigration. To add, EDC and LIDC may not have the right workforce with the required skills and education to tackle greenhouse gas emissions with their own technology which gives an even larger incentive for providing aid. This can be referred to as capacity building. This is where countries are given the opportunity to enhance their workforce and knowledge and resources to address the complex problem of climate change.
However, it is important to look away from the past and focus on the common future goal which is to reduce the severity of impacts caused by climate change. This can be considered as common but differentiated responsibilities. For example, this idea recognizes that everyone has a responsibility to tackle this ongoing issue regardless of context. Therefore it is important for developing countries to take up some of the burden as many would consider it unfair when some countries try to mitigate the problem while other countries blatantly contribute to it.
Additionally, developing countries have several ways to approach this issue as well as improving infrastructure in their native country. They have to ability to aid poorer countries. Improving technology in an already advanced country may have a very minimal and insignificant impact on net carbon emissions while improving the outdated technology in an underdeveloped country with a rapidly growing population could have a very large impact. This will also improve the HDI of the country enabling it to grow economically at a faster rate.
When considering from an economic viewpoint, there are also may potential benefits for the developed country in investing into a poorer country for climate change solutions. The addition of jobs to this sector will boost the economy and will provide long lasting and sustainable jobs while also creating even more jobs In the future as the renewable energy sector grows. For example, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency, the renewable energy sector employed 11 million people worldwide in 2018, a 6% increase from the previous year. If countries are able to integrate sustainable development solutions such as public transport, renewable energy and waste management this may act as a stimulant for the population of that country to actively try and help the environment rather than completely disregard it which many people have been doing in the past.
Furthermore, it is also important to mention the idea of the ‘tragedy of the commons’ in this context. The is where particularly wealthy individuals with self-interest and greediness exploit a resource for the own utility while disregarding the affect it may have on third party individuals or in this case the environment. Climate change is a prime example of this as fossil fuel are considered demerit goods as they have negative externalities. To emphasise, it is crucial that all nations take an active role to reduce climate change or else there will be some people who uses the earths resources for granted without considering the detrimental affects it may have on other people.
In conclusion, it is a complicated and multidimensional subject as to whether developing nations should pay less for climate change solutions. The problem is complicated by developing nations’ rapid economic expansion and the need for environmental justice, even if historical emissions and fairness considerations imply that developed countries should bear a higher share of the cost. In the end, it is the duty of all nations to combat climate change, and a cooperative effort is required to lessen its effects and make the transition to a sustainable future for all.
- Statista. (n.d.). UK: Historical CO2 emissions 1750-2019. [online] Available at: https://www.statista.com/statistics/1224173/cumulative-co2-emissions-united-kingdom-since-1750/.
- Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. (2021). Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis. Cambridge University Press. https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg1/
- Johansen, K. S., & Olai, H. (2017). Common but differentiated responsibilities in the Paris Agreement: Assessing emissions allocation options for developed countries. Climate Policy, 17(4), 442-459. https://doi.org/10.1080/14693062.2016.1248253
- Mankiw, N. G., & Taylor, M. P. (2014). Economics. Cengage Learning.
- Parker, C., Scott, D., & Sprinz, D. (2018). Global cooperation on climate change: Assessing the options. Routledge.
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- World Bank. (2020). Climate Change. https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/climatechange.
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