New Vision (Kampala)
It does not look good for Bali. The international summit, starting next week, to find a more ambitious successor to the Kyoto Protocol is unlikely to come up with new emission targets.
The Commonwealth heads of governments, who met in Kampala last weekend, failed to agree on binding cuts to carbon dioxide emissions. Australia and especially Canada objected to setting targets as long as India and China are exempted.
The Kyoto Protocol was already weak. It set low emission targets, at 5% of the 1990 levels for developed countries by 2012. And even this has been beyond most developed countries' reach - the majority have increased their emissions since signing the protocol.
But above all, the US, the biggest polluter per capita, has never ratified the protocol. President Bush objects because of the exemption granted to China and the strain he believes the treaty would put on the economy.
Even in the face of an increase in weather-related disasters, world leaders are reluctant to transcend national interests, acknowledge the gravity of the problem and agree on decisive action.
The just released Human Development Report of UNDP warns that temperatures may rise by over four degrees Centigrade by the end of the century.
Climate change threatens to cause unprecedented reversals in human progress in our lifetime, the author predicts.
Increased exposure to droughts, floods, storms and climatic uncertainties will reinforce the poverty trap affecting millions of the world's most vulnerable people.
While the rich countries have the capabilities to protect citizens from the consequences, the report points out, vulnerable populations in the developing world have to cope with their own meagre resources.
Rich countries need to demonstrate leadership by making deep early cuts. They also need to put in place a "Marshall Plan" for finance and technology transfer, providing developing countries with the resources they need to make a low carbon transition. But the developing world, too, needs to assume its responsibility. It now accounts for almost half of greenhouse gas emissions and their share is rising.
China and India should take the lead by agreeing to emission cuts. The blame-game between rich and poor countries has to stop and concerted action is needed if we want to keep the planet habitable for future generations.
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