Leaders of developing countries walked out of the UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen yesterday to protest what they called an attempt to kill the Kyoto Protocol. Rich nations are trying to reach a new climate agreement that includes emissions targets for the developing world. Developing countries are not legally bound by Kyoto emissions targets and support its extension beyond 2012, when the protocolís first commitment period ends.
Letís look at this for a moment from the perspective of a developing country, say Bangladesh. Bangladesh stands to lose a lot when sea levels continue the rise. The country has a large open, unprotected delta that faces the Indian Ocean. Bangladesh is already regularly hit by devastating cyclones that kill thousands and thousands of people. But what has Bangladesh contributed to global warming? The country is listed as number 144 on the list of CO2 emissions per capita per country.
The average Bangladeshi emits 0.2 metric ton per capita. By comparison: the average Western European country emits 10 metric tons per capita and the United States tops the list (if we exclude a few small oil states in the Gulf) with about 20 metric tons per capita. In other words an American emits 100 times as much CO2 per capita that a Bangladeshi.
If I would be a Bangladeshi and I would have a conversation about global warming with an American, I would say: “This is your problem. You created it. You should solve it. Don’t expect me to support you with this.” It is not just that Bangladesh did not contribute to the problem of global warming. The country did not benefit from the huge economic gains that the rich world made in the process. The fact that we speak today about a rich “developed” world and a poor “developing” world has a lot to do with this. The process of development went hand in hand with the process of global warming.