New York Times
UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Envoys from India, China and other developing nations offered Wednesday to hold the line on their greenhouse gas emissions, but only as measured against the per-capita pollution produced by the United States and other richer nations.
The U.S. emits about 7 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases a year. China, with 1.3 billion people, has pulled roughly even with that amount, but its emissions per person are roughly one-fourth that in the U.S., which is home to 300 million.
A recurring theme during the U.N. General Assembly's debate this week on climate change was that the United States and other wealthy nations bear a greater responsibility for adding more gases to the atmosphere that contribute to global warming by trapping heat.
''The reality is that developed countries are responsible for the bulk of current and historical greenhouse gas emissions,'' said Vanu Gopala Menon, Singapore's ambassador to the U.N. ''So clearly, they have an obligation to take the lead in reducing emissions.''
Indian Ambassador Nirupam Sen said his government would keep its greenhouse gas emissions at a per capita level below that of developed countries.
Chinese envoy Yu Qingtai told The Associated Press that China would try to keep a lid on its growing gas emissions when compared to U.S. per capita emissions.
''I cannot accept the argument that I, as a Chinese, am only entitled legally to one quarter of what you are entitled to,'' he told AP. But, he added, ''being equal to an American when it comes to per capita emissions would be a nightmare for the Chinese.''
So many nations wanted to speak during the General Assembly's planned two-day conference that a third day of speechmaking was added Wednesday. It was not clear whether that was a benefit.
''For Papua New Guinea, and I suspect many other countries, the time for mind-numbing debate has passed. The time for leadership has arrived!'' said that nation's ambassador, Robert Aisi. ''We cannot idly watch our island communities slip silently under the waves of sea level rise, our villages torn apart by cyclones of increasing fury or our children die of new virulent diseases.''
Numerous poorer nations appealed for help in adapting to a warming world. The U.N. Development Program estimates industrialized nations must provide $86 billion a year by 2015 to help the most vulnerable people adapt to climate change.
''The developed countries will have to shoulder a bigger responsibility, but the developing countries will also have to play their part,'' said Turkish Ambassador Baki Ilkin.
John McNee, Canada's ambassador, said his nation is committed ''to meeting our obligations'' as part of a climate treaty that includes the participation of ''all major emitters'' -- including fast-developing nations as well as industrialized nations.
A day earlier, Alejandro Wolff, deputy U.S. ambassador, said the United States would ''do our part to contribute to this global effort.''
The conference was called by General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim, a Macedonian diplomat and economics professor, both to shape U.N. policy and to support its efforts to craft a new climate treaty for mandatory greenhouse gas reductions within two years. It would replace the Kyoto Protocol, which covers only developed nations and expires in 2012.
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